Ronnie Spector, Leader of Girl-Group The Ronettes, Dies at 78

by Anna Dunn
(Photo by Gilles Petard/Redferns)

Ronnie Spector, ’60s icon and the leader of The Ronettes, has died at 78. Spector, whose edgy voice lead the group into its popularity in the 60s, died of cancer.

Born Veronica Bennett, she, her sister Estelle, and her cousin Nedra Talley, created a group with a bit of a “bad girl” image. According to Variety, producer Phil Spector, who employed Ronnie Spector and the rest of the group, believed she was the ideal person to carry the massive hits.

Estelle has also since passed away. She died in 2009.

In a biography about the producer, author Richard Williams wrote that “Ronnie Bennett’s hugely quavering, massively sexy voice [was] a pure pop instrument the like of which no one had ever heard before. Spector had found his instrument, and she had found her setting.”

In 1963, The Ronettes landed a hit with “Be My Baby,” but by 1966, Phil Spector’s interest in the group faded. Ronnie wound up Marrying Phil Spector, who kept her on an incredibly tight leash during their tumultuous marriage. The singer opened up about her marriage and her subsequent struggle with alcohol abuse in the 1990 Biography Be My Baby.

In her later years, she became a solo artist. In 2007, Ronnie Spector was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Ronettes

Tributes Have Poured in For Ronnie Spector

“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,” a statement on Spector’s website reads. “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.”

Fellow music legend Joan Jett took to Twitter to express her condolences following the nest.

“Our dear friend Ronnie Spector, has passed. She was the sweetest person you could ever know. And her mark on rock and roll is indelible,” she wrote.

Music Producer and friend Stevie Van Zandt also wrote about her passing.

“RIP Ronnie Spector. It was an honor to Produce her and encourage her to get back on stage where she remained for the next 45 years. Her record with the E Street Band helped sustain us at a very precarious time (thanks to Steve Popovich). Condolences to her husband and family,” he wrote.

Ronnie is survived by her five children. She has three sons from her marriage to Phil Spector, Donte, Louis and Gary. She also has two sons from her marriage to Jonathan Greenfield, Austin and Jason,