Ronnie Spector, the swaggering 1960s pop queen with the sky-high beehive whose seductive, quavering vocals fueled multiple successes for The Ronettes, including “Be My Baby,” has died, her family confirmed in a statement Wednesday. She was 78.
“After a brief struggle with cancer, our darling earth angel, Ronnie, quietly left this world today,” the family announced. “She was in the arms of her husband, Jonathan, and surrounded by relatives. Ronnie always had a glint in her eye, a sassy attitude, a wicked sense of humor, and a smile on her face.”
“Be My Baby,” according to Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, is the best pop recording ever made.
The music elite began to pay tribute to Spector’s brilliance.
Veronica Bennett, born in New York City’s Spanish Harlem area, founded the Ronettes with an older sister and a cousin when she was still a teenager in 1961.
They didn’t become renowned until two years later when they auditioned for music producer Phil Spector, the inventor of the 1960s’ “Wall of Sound” style, who signed them to his label.
They toured the country with Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars, fueled by the huge success of “Be My Baby,” their debut song for Spector, and reeled off a string of pop singles over the following several years, including “Baby I Love You,” “Walking in the Rain,” and “Do I Love You?”
According to Ronnie Spector’s website, the Ronettes headlined over artists such as The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and The Yardbirds in England, and then opened for the Beatles on their last US tour in 1966.
The band disbanded in 1967. Ronnie married Phil Spector, with whom she had a turbulent relationship, soon after. In 1974, the couple divorced.
Phil Spector was eventually convicted and sentenced to 19 years in jail for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson. He died in prison.
Her family said Ronnie Spector “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.”