(Always) be my baby
14 January 2022-
Ronnie Spector, lead singer of legendary girl group The Ronettes, passed away this week at the age of 78. Her life was full of both incredible achievements and tremendous hurdles, for which she should be celebrated equally...
Although it never hit number one in the charts (it stalled at #2), “Be My Baby” is one of the definitive songs of a generation. That generation was the 60’s post-war, future flower-power generation. In other words, THE generation, one that saw the most tremendous musical acts of the 20th century appear and inspire decades of music to come. Ronnie Spector‘s group were part of that: created with her sister and cousin, The Ronettes started out as a popular local New York act in the early 1960’s. After a couple of unsuccessful releases, the trio signed with another 1960’s legend — who still working on becoming one at the time: New York producer Phil Spector. Then came “Be My Baby”.
The Ronettes released a few other songs that were hits, including their version of the holiday classic “Sleigh Ride”, all beautifully produced with that “wall of sound” (Phil) Spector eventually came to be known for. Although none quite replicated the impact “Be My Baby” had, The Ronettes clearly put their mark on mid-1960’s pop music, lead singer Ronnie Spector (then Bennett) most of all. As it happens, she had been dating Spector and the two eventually got married — once he divorced his first wife, that is. Then, she semi-retired, along with her bandmates, who all effectively settled down. That could be the end of a charming story, but it ain’t.
For reasons that are now public knowledge, life with Phil Spector was quite hellish and Ronnie was essentially a prisoner in her own home, with Spector reportedly stealing her shoes so that she couldn’t escape. She eventually did — barefoot. Then followed a long legal battle, both around divorce proceedings as well as around the rights to her music with the Ronettes. Although (Phil) Spector initially threatened her into signing less than favorable agreements, he was eventually sentenced to compensating Ronnie and her former bandmates over unpaid royalties. These were the late 1980’s, though: in the meantime, Ronnie had fought hard to relaunch her career with the help of manager and second husband Jonathan Greenfield.
Eventually, and as we all know, (Phil) Spector was convicted for killing another woman and died in jail last year: a sad ending for a musical genius who also happened to be a manipulative criminal. Ronnie’s life ended much more nicely: over the years, she was involved in a number of projects that showcased her otherworldly vocals, being inducted in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, with the Ronettes then being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 while “Be My Baby” had previously been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. All absolutely justified praise.
A few years back, it was announced that Zendaya would be portraying Ronnie in a still-upcoming biopic. We can’t wait to see and hear more about the life of one of music’s pioneers, one of the true female trailblazers, in short a human being who left us decidedly too early…