Ronnie Spector, Lead Singer of the Ronettes, Passes Away at 78

Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes. Image: James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

Ronnie Spector, the charismatic lead singer of the iconic girl group The Ronettes, passed away on Wednesday, CNN reports. She was 78.

Spector’s passing was confirmed by her family in a statement saying she had “a brief battle with cancer.”

“Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today after a brief battle with cancer,” the family’s statement read. “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.”

Born Veronica Bennett in the Spanish Harlem section of New York City, she formed the Ronettes in 1961 with her sister, Estelle, and their cousin Nedra Talley 

Two years later, the group got their big break after they auditioned for music producer Phil Spector, the brains behind the 1960s’ “Wall of Sound” style, who signed them to his record label.

Unlike their contemporaries, the Ronettes donned skintight clothes and were unapologetically seductive.

Throughout the course of their career, the Ronettes charted nine songs on the Billboard Hot 100, five of which landed in the Top 40. Songs such, “Baby, I Love You”, “(The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up” “Walking in the Rain,” and their signature tune “Be My Baby, “are considered classics in the American songbook.

In 1964, the group released their only studio album, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica

When the group broke up in 1967, Ronnie married Phil Spector shortly. The union was widely known as a tumultuous one where Ronnie said that Phil was possessive and abusive. They divorced in 1974.

In 1988, Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes sued Phil Spector for more than $10 million in royalties and licensing fees. After years of litigation, in 2000, he was ordered to pay the Ronettes royalties twice a year.

Spector was later convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson and sentenced to 19 years in prison. He died behind bars in January 2021.

After his death, Ronnie said, “he was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband.”

The Ronettes were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “Be My Baby” in 1999, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

The 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. In lieu of flowers, Ronnie requested that donations be made to your local women’s shelter or to the American Indian College Fund. A celebration of Ronnie’s life and music will be announced in the future. The family respectfully asks for privacy at this time.”

We extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ronnie Spector.

Ronnie Spector, center, with her sister Estelle Bennett, and Nedra Talley, of the iconic girl group The Ronettes on the cover of the November 1966 issue of EBONY.

More

LATEST STORIES

Newsletter

Sign up for the EBONY Newsletter

By subscribing, you agree to share your email address with EBONY to receive our weekly emails, events, and other updates. Please see our privacy policy for more information.

By subscribing, you agree to share your email address with EBONY to receive our weekly emails, events, and other updates. Please see our privacy policy for more information.

Newsletter

Sign up for the EBONY Newsletter

When you sign up for the EBONY newsletter, you’ll be the first to know about all the latest news and updates that are important to you. Gain access to exclusive interviews, videos, special events, and product giveaways delivered right to your inbox!

By subscribing, you agree to share your email address with EBONY to receive our weekly emails, events, and other updates. Please see our privacy policy for more information.