Ronnie Spector, lead singer of the Ronettes, dead at 78

Ronnie Spector, the lead singer of the 1960s girl group the Ronettes who scored a string of hits including “Be My Baby” and “Baby, I Love You,” died Wednesday. She was 78.

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Spector died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer, according to her family.

“Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on her face. She was filled with love and gratitude,” a statement from her family said. No other details were revealed.

The Ronettes’ powerful voices, aided by the songwriting and producing prowess of Phil Spector, made the group into one of the top acts of the girl-group era, The Associated Press reported. The group toured England with the Rolling Stones and were friends of the Beatles.

Spector, with her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, scored hits with “Baby, I Love You,” “Walking in the Rain,” “I Can Hear Music” and “Be My Baby,” which was co-written by Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.

Spector sang with the Ronettes from their formation in 1959 until the group dissolved in 1967, Rolling Stone reported.

“We weren’t afraid to be hot. That was our gimmick,” Spector said in her 1990 memoir, “Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts and Madness.” “When we saw The Shirelles walk on stage with their wide party dresses, we went in the opposite direction and squeezed our bodies into the tightest skirts we could find. Then we’d get out on stage and hike them up to show our legs even more.”

Ronnie Spector was born Veronica Yvette Bennett on Aug. 10, 1943. She began singing with her sister and cousin as Ronnie and the Relatives, according to the AP.

“The louder they applauded, the more mascara we put on the next time,” she wrote in her memoir. “We didn’t have a hit record to grab their attention, so we had to make an impression with our style. None of it was planned out; we just took the look we were born with and extended it.”

>> Music producer, murderer Phil Spector dead at 81

In March 1963, Estelle Bennett arranged an audition in front of Phil Spector, known for his “Wall of Sound” recording style that merged vocal harmonies with lavish orchestral arrangements. The group was signed to Phillies Records later that year. They sang backup for other groups until Phil Spector had the group record “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You.”

Ronnie and Phil Spector were married in 1968 and separated four years later. They were divorced in 1974.

In her autobiography, Ronnie Spector wrote about abuse at the hands of her husband. Phil Spector went to prison in 2009 for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson and died on Jan. 16, 2021.

Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Last year, “Be My Baby” ranked at No. 22 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.