New York, Jan 12 (EFE).- Ronnie Spector, lead singer and founder of the iconic female R&B/soul singing group The Ronettes, died Wednesday of cancer in Connecticut, her family said in a statement. She was 78.
Ronnie, born and baptized Veronica Yvette Bennett, will be remembered along with her group for two of their pop hits – “Be My Baby” and “Baby, I Love You,” both from 1963 – which have been covered by other groups in all different styles for decades.
She was born in 1943 to an African-American-Cherokee mother and an Irish-American father in New York’s Spanish Harlem, also known as East Harlem, in Upper Manhattan.
The Ronettes, one of the most famous “girl groups” during the 1960s and 1970s, got their start in Harlem in 1957, formed by Ronnie, her younger sister Esthelle – who died in 2009 – and their cousin Nedra Talley.
A large portion of the group’s fame comes from the trio’s association with music industry icon and record producer Phil Spector, the so-called King Midas of pop music, whom Ronnie married in 1968 after being involved with him for five years, a union that lasted until 1972.
“Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today after a brief battle with cancer. She was with family and in the arms of her husband, Jonathan (Greenfield),” her manager, the family said in its statement, asking for privacy at this time and promising that a “celebration of Ronnie’s life and music will be announced in the future.”
The family went on to say that “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. Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or saw her.”
The family also said that Ronnie had asked that instead of flowers, anyone wanting to do so should donate to local women’s shelters or to the American Indian College Fund.
“Be My Baby” was The Ronettes sixth single and became a tremendous hit in 1963, and the trio followed it with a spate of similar classics, including “Baby I Love You,” “(The Best Part of) Breaking Up,” “Walking in the Rain” and the original version of “I Can Hear Music.
“I Can Hear Music” later became a big hit for The Beach Boys, and the group’s songwriter and lead singer Brian Wilson said he wrote his popular “Don’t Worry, Baby” in response to “Be My Baby.”
The Ronettes were a key group in the R&B and soul genres for decades. Ronnie, who also pursued a successful solo career, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Ronettes in 2007.