Ronnie Spector (born Veronica Yvette Bennett; August 10, 1943) is an American rock and roll singer known as "The Bad Girl of Rock & Roll". Spector is the lead singer of the rock/pop vocal girl group the Ronettes, who had a string of hits during the early to mid–1960s such as "Be My Baby", "Baby, I Love You", and "The Best Part of Breakin' Up". Subsequently, Spector launched her solo career and has since released five studio albums (Siren in 1980, Unfinished Business in 1987, Something's Gonna Happen in 2003, Last of the Rock Stars in 2006, and English Heart in 2016) and one extended play (She Talks to Rainbows in 1999).
|Birth name||Veronica Yvette Bennett|
|Also known as||Ronnie Spector|
Bad Girl of Rock and Roll
|Born||August 10, 1943|
Spanish Harlem, New York City, U.S.
In 1986, Spector experienced a career resurgence when she was featured on Eddie Money's Grammy nominated pop rock song "Take Me Home Tonight" which reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100. She has sung and collaborated with multiple other acts. Spector is called the original "bad girl of rock and roll". In 2007, Ronnie and the Ronettes were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Spector was born Veronica Yvette Bennett in New York City, the daughter of an African-American/Cherokee mother and Irish-American father. She and her sister, Estelle Bennett (1941–2009), were encouraged to sing by their large family, as was their cousin, Nedra Talley. All three women later became members of the Darling Sisters, later known as the Ronettes.
1963-1969: The Ronettes and early successEdit
The Ronettes were a popular live attraction around the greater New York area in the early 1960s. Looking for a recording contract, they initially were signed to Colpix Records and produced by Stu Phillips.
After releasing a few singles on Colpix without success, they were signed by Phil Spector to Philles Records. Their relationship with Spector brought chart success with "Be My Baby", "Baby, I Love You", "The Best Part of Breakin' Up", "Do I Love You?", and "Walking in the Rain". The group had two top 100 hits in 1965: "Born to Be Together" and "Is This What I Get for Loving You?" The group broke up in early 1967, following a European concert tour that included their appearance at the Moonlight Lounge, in Gelnhausen, Germany, where they entertained American military personnel. The Ronettes were never to reunite until their 2007 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The group's last single, "I Can Hear Music", on the Philles Records label (# 133), was released in the fall of 1966. Instead of recording on the West coast, Ronnie and her group returned to New York City, their hometown, to record "I Can Hear Music" with producer Jeff Barry. Phil Spector kept many of the group's unreleased songs in the vault for years.
Ronnie's very last recording of the 1960s "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered," was credited as "The Ronettes Featuring the Voice of Veronica," appeared in 1969 on Herb Alpert's A&M Records label, with "Oh I Love You", an old Ronettes B-side, as the flip. Only Ronnie's voice was used for the lead and background vocals on "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered". Ronnie's recording and performing career had begun its long hiatus.
1970-1982: Solo career and SirenEdit
In February 1971, during Phil Spector's tenure as head of A&R at Apple Records, Spector recorded the single "Try Some, Buy Some/Tandoori Chicken" at Abbey Road Studios, released as Apple 33 in the UK and Apple 1832 in the US. The A-side was written by George Harrison, and produced by both him and Spector. Although the single was not a big hit, its backing track was used two years later for Harrison's own version of the song, on his chart-topping Living in the Material World album. "Try Some, Buy Some" had another lasting influence when John Lennon recorded "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" later the same year and asked Spector (co-producing again) to reproduce the mandolin-laden Wall of Sound he had created for Spector's single. Lennon liked the rockabilly B-side too; he sang it at his birthday party in New York in October 1971 (a recording of which has appeared on bootlegs). Spector recorded other Harrison songs during those London sessions − including "You" and "When Every Song Is Sung" − but her versions were never released, even though a full album had been planned originally.
In the early to mid-1970s, Spector briefly reformed the Ronettes (as Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes) with two new members (Chip Fields Hurd, the mother of actress Kim Fields, and Diane Linton). In her book, Spector recounted several abortive attempts to recapture mainstream success throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, during which time she was widely perceived as an oldies act.
In 1976, Ronnie sang a duet with Southside Johnny on the recording "You Mean So Much To Me", penned by Southside's longtime friend Bruce Springsteen and produced by Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band. This was the final track on the Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes' debut album I Don't Want to Go Home. She also made appearances with the band the following year.
1983-2002: "Take Me Home Tonight", Unfinished Business, and return to musicEdit
In 1986, Spector enjoyed a resurgence to popular radio airplay as the featured vocalist on Eddie Money's Top 5 hit, "Take Me Home Tonight", in which she answers Money's chorus lyric, "just like Ronnie sang", with, "be my little baby". The song's music video was one of the top videos of the year and in heavy rotation on MTV. During this period, she also recorded the song "Tonight You're Mine, Baby" (from the film Just One of the Guys).
In 1988, Spector began performing at the Ronnie Spector's Christmas Party, a seasonal staple at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City. In 1999, she released the album, She Talks to Rainbows, which featured a few covers of older songs. Joey Ramone acted as producer and appeared on stage with her to promote the record.
In 1988, Ronnie and the other members of the Ronettes sued Phil Spector for nonpayment of royalties and for unpaid income he made from licensing of Ronettes’ music. In 2001, a New York court announced a verdict in favor of the Ronettes, ordering Spector to pay $2.6 million in back royalties. The judgment was overturned by the Court of Appeals in 2002 and remanded back to the Supreme Court. The judges found that their contract gave Spector unconditional rights to the recordings. Though the judges ruled that Ronnie is entitled to her share of the royalties which she had forfeited in her divorce settlement, they reversed a lower court's ruling that the group were entitled to the music industry's standard 50 percent royalty rate. The final outcome had Spector paying a judgment in excess of 1.5 million dollars to the Ronettes.
2003-present: Collaborations and English HeartEdit
In 2004 Ronnie was recognized for her contribution to American popular music when she was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
In 2007, Spector and the Ronettes were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Spector provided guest vocals on the track "Ode to LA", on The Raveonettes' album Pretty in Black (2005). Spector's album, Last of the Rock Stars (2006), was released by Bad Girl Sounds and featured contributions from members of The Raconteurs, Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Raveonettes, Patti Smith, and Keith Richards. Spector herself co-produced two of the songs. A Christmas EP, Ronnie Spector's Best Christmas Ever, was released on Bad Girl Sounds in November 2010, featuring five new Christmas songs.
In 2011, after the death of Amy Winehouse, Ronnie Spector released her version of Winehouse's single "Back to Black" (2006) as a tribute and for the benefit of the Daytop Village addiction treatment centers. She has also performed this song as part of her live act, including during her UK tour in 2015.
In 2016, she released, through 429 Records, English Heart, her first album of new material in a decade. The album features her versions of songs of the British Invasion by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Bee Gees, and others produced by Scott Jacoby. English Heart peaked at #6 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart.
On August 9, 2017, People Magazine premiered a new single Love Power produced by Narada Michael Walden by Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes, making it the first Ronettes single in decades. The song was released August 18, 2017.
Ronnie married Phil Spector in 1968 and took his name professionally. In 1969, they adopted a son, Donté Phillip Spector. Two years later, Phil surprised her with twins, Louis and Gary for Christmas. A few months later she left. "The more kids I got, the further I was in that mansion and I never got out until I ran out and escaped," she said. Ronnie detailed in her 1990 memoir, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness, that she escaped barefoot with the help of her mother in 1972. "I knew that if I didn't leave I was going to die there," she said. Phil had subjected her to years of psychological torment and sabotaged her career by forbidding her to perform. He surrounded the house with barbed wire, guard dogs and confiscated her shoes to keep her from leaving. On the rare occasions he allowed her out alone, Ronnie had to drive with a life-size dummy of Phil. Soon, she began drinking and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to escape the house. According to Ronnie, Phil installed a gold coffin with a glass top in the basement, promising that he would kill her and display her corpse if she ever left him, then stated "I can keep my eye on you after you’re dead." In 1998, Ronnie testified that Phil had frequently pulled a gun on her during their marriage and threatened to kill her unless she surrendered custody of their children. In their 1974 divorce settlement Ronnie forfeited all future record earnings because Phil threatened to have a hit man kill her. She received $25,000, a used car and monthly alimony of $2,500 for five years.
- Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica, 1965
- The Ronettes Greatest Hits – Volume 1, 1981
- The Ronettes Greatest Hits – Volume 2, 1981
- The Best of The Ronettes, 1992
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|The Last of the Rock Stars||
|"—" denotes a release that did not chart.|
- She Talks to Rainbows EP, 1999
- Something's Gonna Happen EP, 2003
- Best Christmas Ever EP, 2010
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