Ronettes lead singer Ronnie Spector died on January 12th at age 78 following a brief battle with cancer, according to The Los Angeles Times. A statement from her family was issued, which read: “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.” She is survived her husband, Jonathan Greenfield, and two sons, Jason and Austin. In the 1970’s she was forced by ex-husband Phil Spector to surrender custody of their adopted twins Louis and Gary.
Brian Wilson saluted Spector, who sang his all-time favorite song, “Be My Baby”: “I just heard the news about Ronnie Spector and I don’t know what to say. I loved her voice so much and she was a very special person and a dear friend. This just breaks my heart. Ronnie’s music and spirit will live forever.”
Producer and former boyfriend Steve Van Zandt posted: “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.”
Ronnie, who was borne Veronica Bennett in New York City formed the Ronettes with older sister Estelle and cousin Nedra Talley in 1959. Ronnie eventually married the group’s Svengali producer, the infamous Phil Spector, and remains best known for Spector’s legendary “Wall Of Sound” productions — “Be My Baby,” “Walking In The Rain,” “Baby, I Love You,” “(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up,” among many others. The Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Estelle Bennett died in 2009.
Phil and Ronnie Spector were married in 1968 and divorced in 1974. She shed light on their often violent and unhappy union in her 1990 memoir, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness. For years afterwards, she was barred from singing her Ronettes hits and collecting royalties due to Phil Spector’s crippling lawsuits.
In the early-1970’s she was briefly signed to the Beatles‘ Apple Records where in 1971 she recorded the unsuccessful George Harrison-written single “Try Some Buy Some,” which was co-produced by Harrison and Spector. In 1977, Steve Van Zandt produced a comeback hit for Ronnie with a cover of Billy Joel‘s “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” with backing from the E Street Band. She appeared on Eddie Money‘s 1986 Top Five hit “Take Me Home Tonight” where she reprised the chorus of her 1963 classic “Be My Baby.”