The music world has lost a legend. Ronnie Spector, lead singer of the iconic 60s girl group The Ronettes, has died at the age of 78 on January 8. “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,” read a statement on Ronnie’s official 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.”
Ronnie was a major force on the pop charts. Alongside her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, they formed The Ronettes and scored huge hits with “Baby, I Love You,” “Walking in the Rain,” and “Be My Baby.” The group was even nominated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Sadly, much of her career was overshadowed by her tumultuous relationship with music producer Phil Spector. Keep reading to find more about Ronnie, below.
1. Ronnie was born in Spanish Harlem
The lead singer was born Veronica Bennett in Spanish Harlem on Aug. 10, 1943. Ronnie, Estelle and Nedra would first begin performing small gigs around New York as Ronnie and the Relatives until they changed their name to The Ronettes, according to Variety. The group eventually called up Phil’s office one day and they were granted an audition, where Phil jumped up afterwards and exclaimed, “That’s the voice I’ve been looking for!” per the outlet.
2. She began an affair with her producer Phil Spector
By the time The Ronettes popularity was wavering, Ronnie was having an affair with Phil, who was still married to his first wife Annette Merar. After the couple divorced, Ronnie and Phil got married in 1968, with Ronnie taking his surname professionally.
3. She claims Phil was abusive
Ronnie claimed in her 1990 autobiography Be My Baby,: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness that Phil was “possessive, jealous and emotionally abusive.” She alleges Phil kept her as a prisoner in their Beverly Hills home for years, which caused her to descend into alcoholism. In the book, she wrote that her mother, Beatrice, made her leave Phil after a huge fight in 1972. Their divorce was finalized in 1974.
4. Her ex-husband would go on to murder an actress
On February 3, 2003, Phil fatally shot actress Lana Clarkson in the mouth while in his home in Alhambra, California. After a mistrial, he was convicted of second-degree murder in 2009 and sentenced to 19 years to life in state prison. Phil died in prison on Jan. 16, 2021 at the age of 81.
5. Ronnie is survived by five sons
Ronnie adopted three sons while she was married to Phil: Donte, Louis and Gary. In 1982, Ronnie married her manager Jonathan Greenfield, who helped her get her career back on track and was also a driving force to get her drinking under control. They share sons Austin and Jason.