At 16, Singer Launched Ronettes With 'Be My Baby'

Ronnie Spector was 'the voice of a million teenage dreams'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2022 7:30 PM CST
At 16, Singer Launched Ronettes With 'Be My Baby'
Ronnie Spector sings with the Ronettes in the Hall of Fame ceremony in 2007.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Ronnie Spector, who led the Ronettes to pop stardom in the 1960s with a series of hits including "Be My Baby," died Wednesday. She was 78 and had cancer, her family said. "Her joyful sound, playful nature, and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard, or saw her," the statement said. Born Veronica Yvette Bennett in Spanish Harlem, Spector founded the Ronettes as a teenager, enlisting her older sister Estelle and cousin Nedra Talley, NPR reports. The Ronettes were performing close to home when producer Phil Spector signed them and brought them to California to record. When Ronnie Spector was 16, they cut "Be My Baby."

The Ronettes became the quintessential girl group of the early 1960s and "Be My Baby" their definitive hit, per Rolling Stone. The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson has called it the greatest pop record ever. He was driving the first time he heard it and had to pull over. "I felt like I wanted to try to do something as good as that song, and I never did," he said. "I've stopped trying." The Ronettes' other hits included "Baby, I Love You," "Walking in the Rain," and "Do I Love You." All were produced by Phil Spector. Ronnie and Phil Spector were married from 1968 to 1972. After he died last year, she posted that "he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband."

The lead singer's voice on all Ronettes records was powerful and unmistakable. Rolling Stone described it as "silk meets sandpaper," and CNN called it "sultry, quavering." Wilson said Wednesday, "I loved her voice so much." Diane Warren called Spector "the voice of a million teenage dreams including mine." The Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Spector and Darlene Love worked together early in their careers, after meeting in 1964. "The way she sang and moved onstage," Love said, "that was rock & roll." (More obituary stories.)

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