Ronnie Spector, one of the most distinctive voices in popular music ever since her debut with the Ronettes in 1957, has died following a "brief battle with cancer." She was 78.
Her official Instagram account posted a clip of her covering the Beatles' "I'll Follow the Sun" with the sad news: "Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today.. She was with family and in the arms of her husband, Jonathan."
"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," the statement continued.
"Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or saw her. "
They requested that donations be made to local women’s shelters or to the American Indian College Fund, and promised a future celebration of Ronnie’s life and music.
RIP Ronnie Spector. It was an honor to Produce her and encourage her to get back on stage where she remained for the next 45 years. Her record with the E Street Band helped sustain us at a very precarious time (thanks to Steve Popovich). Condolences to her husband and family.
Spector was born Veronica Bennett on August 10, 1943, in New York City. As a teen, she formed the Darling Sisters with her sister, the late Estelle Bennett, and their cousin, Nedra Talley. Soon after, they switched to the Ronettes, in honor of Ronnie's commanding, gravely lead vocals.
She sang lead on their big hits, including "Be My Baby" (#2 in 1963), "Baby, I Love You" (1963), "(The Best Part of) Breakin' Up" (1964), "Do I Love You?" (1964), "Walking in the Rain" (1964), "Born to Be Together" (1965), "Is This What I Get for Loving You?" (1965), and "I Can Hear Music" (1966).
The group achieved enormous popularity, even touring with the Beatles in 1966, but split in 1967. She married the group's Svengali producer Phil Spector, the man behind most of their hits, and a man who was abusive to Ronnie. He was later convicted of murdering a woman in his home, dying in prison in 2021.
Ronnie left Phil by the early '70s. She worked with the Beatles, in particular George Harrison, released solo works, and also reformed various incarnations of the Ronettes.
She sang prominently on the late Eddie Money's 1987 single "Take Me Home Tonight," which hit #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. She reprised some of her iconic vocals from "Be My Baby" for the smash-hit song.
Tunes by the Ronettes from "A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector" (1963) became annual classics, with "Sleigh Ride" hitting the U.S. Top 10 in December 2021.
Among many other noteworthy achievements, Ronnie Spector's memoir "Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, Or, My Life as a Fabulous Ronette" was a best seller in 1990, and is thought to be in the works as a movie with Zendaya attached to star.
Over the objections of Phil Spector, Ronnie and the Ronettes were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
Spector is survived by her manager-husband of 40 years, Jonathan Greenfield, and their two sons.