Ronnie Spector, an indelible voice in popular music from her time with the Ronettes through an abusive marriage to Phil Spector and beyond, has died following what her family describes as a brief bout with cancer. She was 78.
In a statement, her loved ones said, "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. 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. In lieu of flowers, Ronnie requested that donations be made to your local women’s shelter or to the American Indian College Fund."
Spector will be honored at a memorial at a future date, as yet to be determined.
Spector was born in NYC on August 10, 1943, and with her sister Estelle Bennett (1941-2009) and their cousin Nedra Talley (b. 1946) formed the seminal girl group the Ronettes, first called the Darling Sisters, in 1957.
Ronnie was the group's lead singer, including on such hits as "Be My Baby" (1963), "Baby, I Love You" (1963), "The Best Part of Breaking Up" (1964) and "Walking in the Rain" (1964).
They toured with the Beatles in 1966, but broke up in 1967. Spector worked with George Harrison (1943-2001) extensively in the early '70s, and later reformed the Ronettes in various incarnations.
Though she went by the moniker of "the original bad girl of rock 'n' roll," the dark presence in the Ronettes was its genius producer Phil Spector (1939-2021), a controlling figure who was wed to Ronnie from 1968-1972 and who was physically abusive to her. He later murdered an actress in his home, dying in prison in 2021.
Along with her Ronettes success, Spector had several solo hits, and in 1986 sang prominently on Eddie Money's (1949-2019) single "Take Me Home Tonight," a #4 smash.
She was also embraced for her many Christmas covers.
Her 1990 memoir Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, Or, My Life as a Fabulous Ronette was a best seller. It has reportedly been optioned for a film, with actress Zendaya attached to star.
Over the objections of Phil Spector, Ronnie Spector was a Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductee for her work with the Ronettes, and in 2001 won a large verdict against her ex-husband for back royalties, a rarity among pre-'80s performers.
She is survived by her manager husband Jonathan Greenfield, her husband of 40 years, as well as by their sons Austin Drew Greenfield and Jason Charles Greenfield.