Artist News

Ronnie Spector dies

By | Published on Thursday 13 January 2022

Ronnie Spector

Ronettes leader Ronnie Spector has died, following a recent cancer diagnosis. She was 78.

“Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humour and a smile on her face”, her family said in a statement. “She was filled with love and gratitude. Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or saw her”.

Born Veronica Bennett, Spector formed what would become The Ronettes with her sister Estelle and their cousin Nedra Talley in 1957. They released their first single – initially as Ronnie And The Relatives – in the early 60s through Colpix Records.

Frustrated with their lack of success with Colpix, the group auditioned for producer Phil Spector, who agreed to sign them to his own Philles Records label. That didn’t result in immediate success either, but in 1963 they scored their first hit with ‘Be My Baby’.

They quickly followed up on that with ‘Baby, I Love You’, and in early 1964 toured the UK, where their opening act was The Rolling Stones. They also made friends with The Beatles, later supporting them in the US – although Ronnie was replaced by her cousin, Elaine Mayes (another early member of the group) on that tour.

Despite their hits, the group’s popularity was not sustained, and they eventually split in 1967. Ronnie and Phil, who had been in a relationship for a number of years, married soon afterwards. Ronnie has since said that she was kept a virtual prisoner in their home during that marriage, until she left him and filed for divorce in 1972.

When Phil Spector died last year – still in prison following his 2009 conviction for the murder of Lana Clarkson – Ronnie said in a statement: “While he was alive, he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband. Unfortunately, Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio. Darkness set in, many lives were damaged. I still smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and always will. The music will be forever”.

Free of her former husband, Ronnie Spector embarked on a solo career in the mid-1970s – releasing four albums over the following decades – and also continuing to perform live until recently. Her last album, ‘English Heart’, was released in 2016.