New York. — Ronnie Spector, the trail-blazing lead singer of the 1960s all-girl group the Ronettes, has died.
The pop star found fame with hits such as “Be My Baby”, “Baby I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain”.
A statement from her family said she passed away at age 78 “after a brief battle with cancer”.
“Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humour and a smile on her face,” the statement said.
“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 in 1943 in Manhattan as Veronica Yvette Bennett, she shot to fame aged just 18 while performing with her older sister and cousin.
With their beehive hairstyles and liberal use of mascara, the multi-racial group caught the attention of record producers while performing in New York clubs.
In 1968, she wed Phil Spector, who pioneered the “wall of sound” recording technique. They were married for six years and adopted three children before their divorce.
It was under him that the group recorded smash hits like “Be My Baby”, “Walking In The Rain” and “Baby I Love You”.
But he was violent and abusive. In her memoir, she wrote that Phil kept a coffin in the basement of their house to let the singer know that he would kill her if she left him. In 1972, she escaped their house barefoot.
The Ronnettes later sued the producer for unpaid royalties. He died in prison in 2021 while serving a murder sentence.
The Ronettes’ bad-girl personas are credited with paving the way for future female musical artists.
“We weren’t afraid to be hot. That was our gimmick,” Spector wrote in her memoir in 2004, titled “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.”
But it wasn’t just their outfits. Spector’s voice – full of yearning, tenderness and toughness – was a revelation, with a street-wise spirit other girl groups lacked.
The huge sound of Be My Baby stopped other musicians in their tracks.
“I was driving [the first time I heard it], and I had to pull over to the side of the road – it blew my mind,” said the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson in 2013. — BBCworld.