Remembering Ronnie Spector: Female Rock ‘N’ Roll Icon of the 60’s Dies

In Summary

Ronnie Spector, whose distinctive vocals and "innocent but knowing sexuality" cemented her place in rock and roll history, has died at 78 years old. 

Ronnie Spector, the founder and leader of the chart-topping girl group The Ronettes, passed away on Wednesday due to cancer, per The Associated Press. She was 78. 

Spector’s family said in a statement their “beloved earth angel” passed away while surrounded by relatives and in the arms of her husband Jonathan. 

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“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,” the statement read. “Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or saw her.” 

Spector’s website characterizes her as “embodiment of the heart, soul, and passion of female rock and roll in the 1960s,” naming her “one of the few musicians capable of defining an entire era in pop music.” 

Spector and The Ronettes, which included her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, soared to stardom in the ‘60s with classics including “Walking in the Rain,” “Baby I Love You,” and “Be My Baby.” As the No. 1 pop group in England, they headlined for the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds and went on tour with The Beatles. 

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“Nothing excites me more than just being onstage, having fun and flirting and winking to the guys and stuff like that,” Spector told People magazine in 2017, per AP. “I just have so much fun. It’s just the best feeling when I go out and they say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen … Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes!’ Then I just go out there and the crowd reacts the way they react and I can go on singing forever.” 

The Ronettes disbanded in 1967 after a touring Germany and Spector married Phil, whose songwriting and producing contributed significantly to their success, in 1968. She later detailed years of abuse in her memoir Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, or My Life as a Fabulous Ronette, including being locked in their Beverly Hills mansion, having a coffin placed in the basement as a threat to kill her if she ever left and being held at gunpoint on multiple occasions. 

Phil died of COVID-19 complications in 2021 while serving a prison sentence for the murder of nightclub hostess Lana Clarkson, per the New York Times. She was found with a gunshot after going to his home following a night of drinking in 2003. 

Despite claims of an abusive marriage that kept her locked away for years, Spector remembered Phil as “a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband,” in an Instagram post following his death. “I still smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and always will,” she said. “The music will be forever.” 

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For their major and ever-lasting contributions, Ronnie and the Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. 

In lieu of flowers, Spector requested donations in her honor be sent to a local women’s shelter or the American Indian College Fund, per her family.

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