Monday, March 14, 2011

Beatle People: Ronnie Spector

Ronnie Spector (born Veronica Yvette Bennett on 10 August 1943 in New York, New York) is an American musician, and was the lead singer of the girl group The Ronettes. She is known as the "original bad girl of rock and roll."


From a young age, Bennett took to singing, encouraged by her large, close family. The other members of the Ronettes, Ronnie's sister Estelle Bennett (1941-2009) and cousin Nedra Talley, were also encouraged to sing by their family. The Ronettes were a multiracial group, which was unusual during the 1960s. The Bennetts' mother was African-American and Native American; their father was Irish. In her autobiography, Ronnie Spector said that at one point in her childhood, she was not sure if she was black or white.

Bennett was married to Phil Spector from 1968–1974, and took his name professionally. They adopted three children. Phil adopted Gary and Louis as a single parent after Ronnie left.

* Donté Phillip - Born March 23, 1969 (Adopted: Nov 1969 at age 8 Months)
* Louis Phillip - Born May 12, 1966 (Moved in Dec 1971 at age 5½, Adopted at age 8)
* Gary Phillip - Born May 12, 1966 (Moved in Dec 1971 at age 5½, Adopted at age 8)
By her own account, he kept her 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, for fear of infidelity. Bennett claims Spector showed her a gold coffin with a glass top in his basement, promising to kill and display her should she leave him. During Spector's reclusive period in the late 1960s, he reportedly kept his wife locked inside their mansion. She claimed he also hid her shoes to dissuade her from walking outside, and kept the house dark because he didn't want anyone to see his balding head. Spector's son later claimed that he was kept locked in his room, with a pot in the corner to be used as a toilet. Ronnie Spector did leave the producer 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.

Her autobiography, Be My Baby, How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, co-authored by Vince Waldron, was published in 1989. In 2004, Onyx Books republished the book in a revised and updated mass market paperback edition in the USA.

She now lives in Connecticut with her second husband, Jonathan Greenfield, and their two sons, Austin Drew and Jason Charles. She also hosts an annual Christmas party at B. B. King's bar and grill in New York.


The Ronettes were produced and managed by Phil Spector. In the early 1960s, they had huge hits with "Be My Baby", "Baby I Love You", and "Walking in the Rain". The group broke up in 1966 (never to reunite until their 2007 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), following the semi-retirement of Phil Spector, who was devastated by the lack of success of Tina Turner's "River Deep - Mountain High" {US #88; a UK #3}. A one-off single, sung by Ronnie but credited to "The Ronettes Featuring the Voice of Veronica," appeared in 1969 on Herb Alpert's A&M label, with an old Ronettes B-side as the flip. That single was "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered".
In early 1971, during Phil Spector's tenure as head of A&R at Apple Records, Ronnie recorded the single "Try Some, Buy Some"/"Tandoori Chicken"; released as Apple 33 in the UK, Apple 1832 in the U.S. The A-side of the single was written by George Harrison, and produced by both Harrison and Spector. Although the single was not a big hit, it had one lasting influence: when John Lennon recorded "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" later the same year, he asked Spector to reproduce the same mandolin-laden 'Wall of Sound' that he had created for "Try Some, Buy Some". Lennon liked the rockabilly B-side too, and is reported to have sung it at his birthday party in New York in October 1971.
In the early to mid 1970s, Ronnie briefly reformed the Ronettes (as Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes) with two new members (including Chip Fields, the mother of actress Kim Fields). In her book, she recounted several abortive attempts to recapture mainstream success throughout the 1970's and early 1980's, during which time she was widely perceived as an oldies act.

Billy Joel's 1976 hit Say Goodbye to Hollywood is a tribute to Bennett. Bennett herself covered it (1977), as did Bette Midler and other artists. Ronnie's version failed, however, as did her 1980 solo debut, Siren. In 1986, Ronnie enjoyed a resurgence as featured vocalist on Eddie Money's Top 10 hit "Take Me Home Tonight", singing part of the chorus (where she is introduced by Money singing "just like Ronnie sang...") of "Be My Baby". During this period, she also recorded the song "Tonight You're Mine Baby" (from the film Just One of the Guys) and sang a duet with Southside Johnny on "You Mean So Much To Me Baby".

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.

Bennett's most recent album Last of the Rock Stars (High Coin Records) has been released. A new single, "All I Want," accompanies the album. Keith Richards and Patti Smith are among Bennett's collaborators on the album. Bennett herself has co-produced two of the songs. In 2005 Bennett sang "Ode to L.A." with the Danish rock group The Raveonettes on their album Pretty in Black.

In 1998, Ronnie Spector and the other Ronettes sued Phil Spector for cheating them of royalties and licensing fees, winning a $3 million judgment; however, an appeals court later reversed the decision, upholding the terms of the group's 1963 contract as binding. In 2007, Ronnie Spector discussed her Ronettes' much-delayed entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: "He wrote the Hall of Fame to tell them not to put me in. He did everything he could to stop me. He's bitter that I left him. He wants everyone to think he's the mastermind. He thought everything was because of him."

The Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Ronettes and solo album discography

* The Ronettes Featuring Veronica, 1965
* 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


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