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Ronnie Spector, Iconic Singer of the Ronettes, Dies at 78

Ronnie Spector
Ronnie Spector in a photo studio in Chicago, Illinois, April 28, 1981. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Ronnie Spector, the lead singer of the legendary girl group The Ronettes died Wednesday after a battle with cancer. She was 78.

“Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today after a brief battle with cancer,” the family said in a statement posted on her website. “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.”

Born on August 10, 1943 in Brooklyn as Veronica Greenfield, Spector formed The Ronettes in 1957 with her older sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley. After initially signing with Colpix Records, the group joined with Phil Spector, who signed them to his Philles Records. They had instant success with smash hits like “Be My Baby,” “Baby, I Love You,” “The Best Part of Breakin’ Up,” “Do I Love You?” and “Walking in the Rain.” She would go on to marry Spector in 1968 following an affair that began when they started working together.

The Spectors’ relationship was marred by years of psychological and physical abuse inflicted by Phil on to Ronnie. In 1972, Spector detailed that she fled their Los Angeles-area mansion out of fear for her life, which she described the abuse in her 1990 memoir Be My Baby. They would divorce in 1974.

She’s been cited as a major inspiration for a number of artists. Spector has appeared songs by Southside Johnny, The Raveonettes, Patti Smith, Keith Richards, and most famously, Eddie Money’s 1986 hit, “Take Me Home Tonight.” Her final solo album was released in 2016.

Spector was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 as a member of the Ronettes. In 2020, it was announced that Zendaya would be portraying in her an upcoming biopic based on Be My Baby.