Ronnie Spector, a frontwoman of the group The Ronettes passes away at the age of 78 on January 12, 2022. She’s one of the most distinct voices in pop music, and her body of work celebrates for years to come.
She formed the Ronettes with her older sister, Estelle Bennett, and their cousin Nedra Talley in 1957. She fronted that group while the now-disgraced, recently deceased, and convicted murderer Phil Spector produced the majority of their recordings.
The Ronettes saw nine of their singles chart on the Billboard Hot 100 – five of these become Top 40 hits. Their most popular songs include Baby, I Love You, The Best Part Of Breakin’ Up, and Walking in the Rain.
As prolific as they were, The Ronettes only released one studio album, 1964s Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica. They open for The Rolling Stones, and in 1968, The Ronettes is in the Beatles on their United States tour. It makes them the only female group to ever tour with them.
Ronnie and Phil married in 1968 but separates in 1972. In 1964, Ronnie launched her solo career when she put out the single ‘So Young’. The Ronettes officially broke up in 1967. Ronnie baffled by the split proceed to put out five studio albums after 1980 with the English Heart in 2016.
Throughout her marriage to Phil Spector, Ronnie Spector endured trauma and abuse. Join FactsVerse as we take an in-depth look at her life and times while revealing how tragedy finally caught up with her in the end.
Ronnie Spector’s Early Career With The Ronettes
Veronica Yvette Bennett is born in Washington Heights, Manhattan. Ronnie is the daughter of an Irish-American father and a mother of African and Cherokee descent. She and her sister, Estelle Bennett, encourage by their large family to start singing at an early age. With their cousin, Nedra Talley, the Bennett sisters form a singing group, the Darling Sisters, which later become The Ronettes.
They perform around Washington Heights while they are attending George Washington High School. They quickly become quite popular around the greater New York area. During the early 60s, they start looking to sign a recording contract.
They sign to Colpix Records. Their first few singles produce by Stu Phillips, a composer that pens the theme songs for television shows. The Battlestar Galactica and Knight Rider, but unfortunately, these early songs fail to chart.
The girls then sought out the help of producer Phil Spector, known for his signature Wall of Sound technique. Spector signed The Ronettes to his Philles Records label in 1963. Phil was the one who arguably turned the group into the success story that they would become. Almost immediately they saw songs such as 1963s Be My Baby and Baby I Love You chart. The following year, their songs The Best Part of Breakin’ Up, Do I Love You, and Walking in the Rain rises to the charts.
In 1966, the group will have two Hot 100 hits with Is This What I Get For Loving You and Born To Be Together.
The Ronettes is the third-best singing group in England in 1965, trailing behind The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. The following year, they opened for the Beatles on their 1966 US tour. The Ronettes final single with Spector as their producer, I Can Hear Music, is released in the autumn of 1966. They then returned to New York with producer Jeff Barry.
The following year, however, The Ronettes broke up after completing their European tour.
Ronnie’s Turbulent Marriage With Murderer Phil Spector
Phil Spector is convicted in 2003 of the murder of actress Lana Clarkson and passed away in prison just last year. Before he is put on trial for that gruesome slaying, his marriage to Ronnie Spector mars by control and abuse. Looking back on it, it’s not hard to imagine how Phil eventually turned into the monster that he ultimately became.
With the Ronettes, Ronnie is famous for being somewhat of a bad girl. In the years leading up to her death, Ronnie opened up about her traumatic and turbulent relationship with Phil.
After helping The Ronettes land their hit singles, Phil and Ronnie marry in 1968, before the group split up.
Ronnie wrote a memoir in 1990 titled Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness. In that book, she shared that while she deeply admired Phil’s musical abilities, she also described him as vindictive, controlling, and prone to violence.
Strangely, Ronnie claimed that Phil kept a gold-plated coffin in their basement and threatened that he would kill her if she ever considered leaving him. She wrote in her memoir that if she hadn’t left him when she did, she knew she would have died by his hands.
Ronnie further discussed how Phil kept her essentially locked away under his lock and key at this mansion in California. There, he subjected her to egregious psychological and physical abuse. She finally was able to escape his clutches in 1972 with the help of her mother. She literally ran for her life, barefoot, only managing just barely to escape alive.
Ronnie shared with People magazine in 2018 that she wouldn’t have had the courage to leave if it weren’t for the insistence of her mother, who could see clearly that her daughter was in a dire situation.
After successfully fleeing from Phil, Ronnie made it a point to use her story to encourage other women in similar situations to work up the nerve to save their own lives.
After their separation, Phil awards custody of their three adoptive children, twin brothers Louis and Gary and Donte Phillip. Phil then forced Ronnie to essentially sign her life away in a divorce settlement that cut her out of all future record earnings.
At that time, Ronnie accused Phil of having pulled a gun on her and allegedly hiring a hitman to have her murdered.
Years after their divorce, Phil still believed that he had a level of control over Ronnie. In 2007, despite dealing with his ongoing murder trial, he campaigns to her bar from inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Ronnie and Phil’s three adopted kids likewise reportedly endured trauma and abuse by the producer. Donte Phillip was quoted in a 2003 interview that he and his siblings had been abused by Phil and described their relationship as a ‘thin line between love and hate’.
Phillip also accused Phil of trapping him and his siblings in their bedrooms with padlocks on their doors.
After Phil died in 2021 at the age of 81, Ronnie made a post on social media saying that it was a sad day both for the world of music as well as for her. She went on to describe working with Phil as being a lot like being in the presence of a musical genius and that falling in love with him was a lot like a fairytale.
What they were able to accomplish together was nothing short of magical, and before he showed his true colors, Ronnie says that she was madly in love with him. But despite the good times that they shared, she referred to Phil as a ‘lousy husband’ – which is a bit of an understatement considering what we know about him now.
Ronnie wrapped up her post by explaining that Phil was unable to live or function outside of the studio. ‘Darkness set in. and many lives damaged’ in the process. Even so, she expressed that she still smiled whenever she listened to the music that they made together.
Ronnie’s Later Life And Death
After leaving Phil and going through the hell that was their divorce, Ronnie tried her best to rebuild her career. She chose to keep the last name Spector because she knew that it was the name that people knew her by, and she needed a way to get a footing back in the music industry.
She went on to release those previously mentioned five solo albums and collaborated with dozens of artists over the last few decades, including notably providing backing vocals on The Misfits’ 2003 album, Project 1950.
Ronnie has also worked with acts such as The Raconteurs, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Patti Smith, and Keith Richards.
In 2007, despite Phil Spector’s campaign, The Ronettes inducts into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Spector died from cancer on January 12, 2022, at 78. At the time of her death, she was living with her former manager, Jonathan Greenfield, in Danbury, Connecticut. The couple got married in 1982 and had two sons together, Austin Drew and Jason Charles.
A film is currently in the works for a film adaptation of Ronnie’s memoir Be My Baby, with actress Zendaya slated to play her. It’s unknown at the moment, however, when that film is expected to be released.
Well, that about wraps up this video, but we want to extend our heartfelt condolences to the friends, fans, and family of Ronnie Spector in the wake of her death. She was a trailblazing singer who endured much hardship throughout her life and narrowly escaped with her life after being married to a man that would later slay another woman.
What are your fondest memories of Ronnie Spector? Do any of her songs stand out to you as being particularly noteworthy? Let us know in the comments section down below.
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