Singer Ronnie Spector, who formed iconic 1960s girl group the Ronettes before embarking on a solo career, has died at the age of 78 following a cancer diagnosis. The news was confirmed by Spector’s family in a statement posted to her official website.
“Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today after a brief battle with cancer,” the statement reads. “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.”
Born Veronica Bennett in Spanish Harlem, New York City in 1943, Spector formed the Ronettes with her older sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley in 1957. Throughout the 1960s, the trio had a number of hits, including 1963’s incredibly influential single ‘Be My Baby’, ‘Baby I Love You’, ‘Walking in the Rain’ and many more. They toured with the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles before breaking up in 1967.
In the late 1960s, Ronnie married producer Phil Spector, who recorded the Ronettes’ sole album – 1964’s Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica. She would later allege that Phil Spector had abused and imprisoned her in his home, threatening to kill her. She escaped in 1972, with the pair’s divorce finalised two years later.
In 1971, Spector released solo single ‘Try Some, Buy Some’, written and co-produced by the Beatles’ George Harrison and released on the band’s Apple Records. She would go on to release four solo albums – 1980’s Siren, 1987’s Unfinished Business, 2006’s The Last of the Rock Stars and English Heart in 2016. She also featured on songs by Eddie Money, Joey Ramone and more. In 2007, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Ronettes.
In their statement, Spector’s family said Ronnie requested those wishing to honour her life make donations to their local women’s shelter or to the American Indian College Fund.