NEW YORK – Ronnie Spector, the cat-eyed, bee-hived rock 'n' roll siren who sang such 1960s hits as “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain” as the leader of the girl group the Ronettes, has died. She was 78.
Spector died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer, her family said. “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,” a statement said. No details were revealed.
Tributes flooded social media, with Stevie Van Zandt saying it was an honor to produce her, to Brian Wilson, who wrote on Twitter: “I loved her voice so much and she was a very special person and a dear friend.” Diane Warren called her “The voice of a million teenage dreams including mine.”
The Ronettes' sexy look and powerful voices – plus songwriting and producing help from Phil Spector, whom she married in 1968 and divorced in 1974 – turned them into one of the premier acts of the girl-group era, touring England with the Rolling Stones and befriending the Beatles.
Spector (born Veronica Bennett), alongside her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, saw five of the 12 tracks on the group's debut album, “Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica,” make it to the U.S. Billboard charts when it was released in 1964. “Be My Baby” was co-written by Spector.
“We weren't afraid to be hot. That was our gimmick,” Spector said in her memoir. “When we saw the Shirelles walk onstage with their wide party dresses, we went in the opposite direction and squeezed our bodies into the tightest skirts we could find. Then we'd get out onstage and hike them up to show our legs even more.”