Ronnie Spector death: Lead singer of The Ronettes dies aged 78

The Ronettes became the only girl group to tour with the Beatles when they opened for the band in 1966

Annabel Nugent
Wednesday 12 January 2022 21:49 GMT
Ronnie Spector sings her iconic song ‘Be my Baby’ in Jools’ Annual Hootenanny

Ronnie Spector has died aged 78 after “a brief battle with cancer”.

Spector was the lead singer of the American girl group The Ronettes who were behind hits including “Be My Baby”, “Baby I Love You”, and “Walking in the Rain”.

Spector’s family has issued a statement announcing the singer’s death.

“Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, left this world today after a brief battle with cancer,” reads the statement.

Spector was “with family and in the arms of her husband, Jonathan [Greenfield]” when she died.

No other details surrounding the musician’s death have been revealed.

The statement continued: “Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor [sic] and a smile on her face.

“Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or saw her.”

Spector’s family have said that in lieu of flowers, the singer requested donations be made to “your local women’s shelter or to the American Indian College Fund”.

Ronnie Spector

Spector sang in The Ronettes alongside her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley. The group were responsible for hits including “Baby, I Love You” and “I Can Hear Music” (both released in 1992).

The singer – born Veronica Bennett – grew up in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan, New York City.

Spector, Bennett and Talley began performing in clubs under the name Ronnie and the Relatives.

After signing with music producer and convicted murderer Phil Spector in 1963, however, the trio changed their name to The Ronettes.

In 1964, the group released their only studio album, titled Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica. The record appears on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

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The Ronettes pose with Phil Spector in Los Angeles, 1963

That same year, the band toured the UK, with the Rolling Stones performing as their opening act.

The Ronettes became the only girl group ever to tour with the Beatles when they opened for the British band on their 1966 US tour.

In 1968, Spector married Phil Spector. The two separated in 1972.

Phil died aged 81 in January last year. The former music producer died in jail, having been convicted of murdering actor Lana Clarkson in 2003.

Following the news of his death, Spector remembered him as “a brilliant producer but a lousy husband”.

She wrote on Instagram: “Meeting him and falling in love was like a fairytale. The magical music we were able to make together, was inspired by our love. I loved him madly, and gave my heart and soul to him. As I said many times while he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband.”

Spector added that her former husband was “not able to live and function outside of the recording studio”, and that “darkness set in, [and] many lives were damaged”.

In her 1990 memoir, Be My Baby, Spector wrote that she was subjected to years of psychological abuse by her former husband, who allegedly kept her imprisoned in his California mansion and forbade her from making music or leaving the house without a bodyguard present.

The singer also claimed that he repeatedly threatened to kill her, and that she forfeited all future record earnings in their 1974 divorce settlement due to his threats.

Emmy award winner Zendaya is reportedly in talks to play Spector in a forthcoming film.

As reported by Deadline, A24 have secured the rights to the musician’s life story.

Spector, who was due to work on the project as an executive producer, reportedly requested that Zendaya play her in the film.

Spector is survived by her husband, Jonathan Greenfield who she married in 1982, and her children, Donte, Gary, Louis, Jason, and Austin.

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