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Ronnie Spector (born Veronica Yvette Bennett, August 10, 1943) is an American rock and roll and popular music vocalist. She was lead singer of the 1960s hit-making girl group, the Ronettes. She has been called the original "bad girl of rock and roll".
She was born Veronica Yvette Bennett in New York City, the daughter of a African-American and Cherokee mother and Irish 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 would later become members of the Ronettes.The RonettesThe Ronettes in 1966Spector at a party in 2010
The Ronettes were produced by Phil Spector and managed by Matt Prinz of (GAC) General Artists Corporation in Manhattan. In the early 1960s, they had huge hits 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 there. The group's last single, "I Can Hear Music," on the Philles Records label (# 133), was released in the fall of 1966. That song was not produced by Phil Spector, who used to hire the "Wrecking Crew," Los Angeles area musicians, to provide Wall of Sound orchestral pop symphony backups for the group, at Gold Star Recording Studios in Hollywood. Instead, "I Can Hear Music" was produced by songwriter/producer Jeff Barry, who used only a small band when he recorded the trio in a New York City recording studio. Phil stopped producing new Ronettes' records and kept many of the group's many unreleased songs in the vault for years. The Ronettes were never to reunite until their 2007 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 1966 was also the year when Phil Spector went into a brief seclusion. Thereafter, a one-off single, "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered," sung by Ronnie but credited to "The Ronettes Featuring the Voice of Veronica," appeared in 1969 on Herb Alpert's A&M 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.
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). Other Harrison songs were recorded by Ronnie Spector 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, she 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.
Billy Joel's 1976 hit "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" was inspired by Spector. Ronnie herself covered it in 1977 backed by Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. Ronnie recorded her first solo album in 1980 produced by Genya Ravan, which was a prelude to her work with Joey Ramone in the late 1990s.
In 1976 she 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 bySteven 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.
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", (where she is introduced by Money singing "just like Ronnie sang (Money)... OH, OH, OH, OH-OH (Ronnie Spector)"). The video to the hit recording was one of the top videos of the year and in power 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 1999, she released the critically acclaimed 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 2003, she provided backing vocals for The Misfits' album, Project 1950.
In 1983, Spector and the other Ronettes sued Phil Spector for non-payment of royalties, eventually winning a $3 million judgement in 2003 and establishing the terms of the group's 1963 contract as binding.
Spector, along with her group were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004.
Spector provided guest vocals on the track 'Ode to LA' on the 2005 album Pretty in Black by the Raveonettes.
Spector 2009 album Last of the Rock Stars 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 has 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" as a tribute and for the benefit of the Daytop Village addiction treatment centers.
Ronnie Spector was married to Phil Spector from 1968 to 1974, and took his name professionally; they adopted three children, including a set of twins:
- Donté Phillip (b. March 23, 1969; adopted November 1969, aged 8 months)
- Louis Phillip (b. May 12, 1966; adopted at the age of 5)
- Gary Phillip (b. May 12, 1966; adopted at the age of 5)
By her account, Phil kept Spector a near-prisoner and limited her opportunities to pursue her musical ambitions. In her autobiography, she said that he would force her to watch the film Citizen Kane to remind her she would be nothing without him. Spector's domineering attitude led to the dissolution of their marriage. Bennett was forbidden to speak to the Rolling Stones or tour with the Beatles, because Phil Spector feared that she would be unfaithful.
Bennett says Spector showed her a gold coffin with a glass top in his basement, promising to kill and display her if she left him. During Spector's reclusive period in the late 1960s, he reportedly kept his wife locked inside their mansion. She stated he also hid her shoes to dissuade her from walking outside, and kept the house dark because he did not want anyone to see his balding head. Spector stated in her autobiography that she walked out of the house through the closed and locked rear sliding glass door, shoeless, shattering the glass as she left, her feet lacerated with cuts by the time she got to the gate. She never returned, and filed for divorce in 1972. She wrote a book about her experiences, and said years later: "I can only say that when I left in the early 1970s, I knew that if I didn't leave at that time, I was going to die there." She and Spector separated in 1973 and divorced one year later. In August 2011, Spector admitted that she went to rehab in order to escape living with Phil.
Spector's autobiography, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, co-authored with Vince Waldron, was published in 1989. In 2004, Onyx Books republished the book in a revised and updated mass-market paperback edition in the United States.
- The Ronettes Featuring Veronica, 1961
- Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica, 1965
- Siren, 1980
- The Ronettes Greatest Hits - Volume 1, 1981
- The Ronettes Greatest Hits - Volume 2, 1981
- Unfinished Business, 1987
- The Best of The Ronettes, 1992
- She Talks to Rainbows EP, 1999
- Something's Gonna Happen, 2003
- Last of the Rock Stars, 2006