Ronnie Spector, the singer who led all-timer girl group The Ronettes, died Wednesday “after a brief battle with cancer,” her family revealed in a statement shared via her website. Spector was 78 years old.
“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,” the family’s statement continues. “Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or saw her.”
Born Veronica Yvette Bennett in 1943 in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, Spector formed The Ronettes with her older sister Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley—the group signed their first recording contract with Colpix in 1961, when Spector was still a teenager.
Two years later, The Ronettes signed to Phil Spector’s Philles Records and broke out big, releasing a string of hits that included the Grammy-winning “Walking in the Rain,” “Do I Love You,” “Baby I Love You,” “The Best Part of Breaking Up,” “I Can Hear Music” and one of the best pop songs ever written, “Be My Baby.”
“There were girl group hits before The Ronettes,” Canadian critic Carl Wilson argued in a 2003 Toronto Globe & Mail feature, “but Ronnie Spector was the first woman in rock to provoke anything like the hysteria that Elvis had caused, which was soon to engulf The Beatles.”
Spector would go on to release four solo albums, the most recent of which was 2016’s English Heart.
She was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame in 2004, “Be My Baby” was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2006, and Spector and The Ronettes were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
A mere two weeks ago, on Jan. 1, The Ronettes’ “Sleigh Ride” hit #10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, the group’s first time in the top 10 since “Be My Baby” hit #2 in 1963—a record-setting return to the top of the charts after 58 years and two months.
Hear Spector perform The Ronettes’ signature song circa 1987 via the Paste archival audio below, and find her family’s full statement further down.
Family Statement on the Passing of Ronnie Spector:
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.
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.
In lieu of flowers, Ronnie requested that donations be made to your local women’s shelter or to the American Indian College Fund.
A celebration of Ronnie’s life and music will be announced in the future.
The family respectfully asks for privacy at this time.