As the lead singer of the legendary girl group the Ronettes, Ronnie Spector projected a blend of streetwise earthiness and fragility that informed the group's most acclaimed singles, including such ic...
"(John Lennon) loved my voice and the way I performed and Phil was the opposite - he didn't like guys in the audience screaming at me. Maybe I would've been better off marrying John Lennon or Keith Richards. I always fantasise about that." Singer Ronnie Spector sometimes wishes she had wed another rock icon instead of notoriously controlling producer Phil Spector.
Legendary singer Ronnie Spector has recalled the time she moved tragic star Amy Winehouse to tears by covering her track Back To Black. The Rehab hitmaker, who died aged 27 in 2011, often hailed The Ronettes frontwoman as her inspiration, and was visibly moved when her idol showed her mutual respect by playing one of Winehouse's most acclaimed tracks.
Spector tells Britain's The Guardian, "I used to wish I could get my hands on her. She came to one of my shows. I was singing Back to Black and there was a tear in her eye.
"She was too shy to meet me, but she was so sweet to me. I read articles where she said: 'I love girl groups, especially the Ronettes.' I think she liked us because we were different. I had a black and Cherokee mom and a white father, and that was different. And we were pretty. We didn't have wigs like the other girl groups, it was our real hair."
Phil Spector's ex-wife Ronnie has taken aim at Kanye West in a new interview, revealing she thinks the outspoken rapper is a "d**k". The R&B icon, who fronted girl band The Ronettes, was asked for her opinion on West in a recent interview with website Noisey, and she let rip.
Spector told the site, "I am not a fan of Kanye West. I don't mind (his fiancee) Kim (Kardashian), but I just don't like that guy. I'm not a fan of how he speaks. He's a d**k. I'm sorry. I don't like him. I'm just being honest."
However, she confessed there are some rappers who turn her on - she is a fan of Eminem.
Spector added, "I like something I can understand. I understand his lyrics, but I like the beat."
As the lead singer of the legendary girl group the Ronettes, Ronnie Spector projected a blend of streetwise earthiness and fragility that informed the group's most acclaimed singles, including such iconic pop hits of the 1960s as "Be My Baby," "Baby, I Love You" and "I Can Hear Music. " The power of her brassy voice, which inspired a generation of rock musicians, from The Beatles to the Beach Boys to the Ramones and countless others, also hid years of personal and professional agony at the hands of her husband, infamous producer Phil Spector, who wielded absolute power over her career and life, including more than a half-decade as his virtual prisoner in their Los Angeles home. Spector escaped her spouse in 1972, only to struggle for nearly another two decades to regain her standing in the pop field. Collaborations with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band failed to bring her back to prominence, but a duet with Eddie Money on "Take Me Home Tonight" (1986) revived interest in Spector's legacy, which in turn led to several acclaimed EPs in the late '90s and early 2000s. Spector soon became an emblem of the rock-n-roll survivor, a classic performer who endured near-unimaginable heartbreak but emerged not only alive but also with her talents intact, as evidenced by her continued touring and recording. Ronnie Spector's music and life stood as a stark but ultimately inspiring example of the vagaries of the rock industry, as well as the transformative and healing power of pop.<p>Born Veronica Yvette Bennett on Aug. 10, 1943 in New York City, Ronnie Spector and her sister, Estelle, were the daughters of mixed-heritage parents - their father was Irish-American, while their mother was African-American and Cherokee - which accounted in part for their exotic appearance. The sisters began performing together at family functions while still in grade school, which led to the formation of a vocal group called the Ronettes. The initial lineup was a quintet, comprised of Spector, Estelle Bennett and their cousins Nedra Talley, among others, but a disastrous performance at an Apollo Theater amateur night show whittled the band down to the trio of Spector, Bennett and Talley. After renaming themselves Ronnie and the Relatives, the group began performing at various minor functions, which led to their introduction to Colpix Records producer Stu Phillips. The group released two singles for the label, 1961's "I Want a Boy" and "I'm Gonna Quit While I'm Ahead" (1962), neither of which reached the <i>Billboard</i> Hot 100. Shortly thereafter, they gained their breakout moment, though purely by accident: the teenagers snuck into Manhattan's Peppermint Lounge, then the epicenter of pop cool as the launching pad for the Twist craze, and were mistaken by its manager as the backing dancers for the house band, Joey Dee and the Starliters. Their impromptu performance won then a nightly spot at the club, which later sent them to Miami to open a Florida branch of the Peppermint Lounge. There, they met influential DJ Murray the K, who hired them as backing dancers and singers for the acts that performed in his shows at the Brooklyn-Fox Theater. By 1962, they had again adopted the Ronettes moniker, as well as their signature look of stratospheric beehive hairdos and heavy kohl eye makeup.<p>Though the Ronettes were popular live performers, their recording career was stuck in a rut until 1963, when producer Phil Spector signed them to his Phillies label. Their second single for the label, "Be My Baby," was a simple but urgent statement of romantic dedication elevated to operatic levels of power by Spector's "Wall of Sound" production technique, which double-tracked multiple layers of instruments and vocals to suggest the majestic sweep of a symphony orchestra. The result was an immediate hit, rocketing to No. 2 on the singles chart and establishing the Ronettes as a leading new act in pop and R&B circles. A second single, "Baby, I Love You" (1963) was credited to the Ronettes but actually featured Spector with backing singers Cher and Darlene Love, who stood in for Estelle Bennett and Talley while they toured as part of a Dick Clark-sponsored package show. The single reached No. 24 on the <i>Billboard</i> Hot 100, and was followed by three songs, including "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," for Spector's holiday album <i>A Christmas Gift For You</i> (1963). The following year, the Ronettes embarked on a tour of England, where they made a positive impression upon both fans and musicians of the British Invasion scene. Spector would enjoy romantic relationships with both John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles, as well as Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, much to the consternation of Phil Spector, who forbade them to open for the Beatles on the band's landmark 1964 tour of America.<p>His decision would be the first of many to undermine the Ronettes, whose careers began to wane in the mid-1960s along with many of their fellow New York girl groups. After scoring a No. 23 hit with the melancholy "Walking in the Rain" (1964), the Ronettes' singles either charted in the lower regions of the Hot 100, like 1966's "I Can Hear Music," or went unreleased. Their versions of songs like "Chapel of Love," "I Wish I Never Saw the Sun Shine" and "Everything Under the Sun" languished in the Phillies vaults while Spector and her bandmates saw subsequent covers by the Dixie Cups, Ike and Tina Turner and the Supremes attain hit status. Much of the blame for the Ronettes' decline was laid at the feet of Phil Spector, who had become romantically involved with Ronnie and was believed to be deliberately sabotaging their careers for fear that she would leave him if the group became too popular. His decision to bar Spector from performing with the group on a 14-city tour of America with the Beatles in 1966, led to their disbandment the following year. In 1968, Spector married Phil, who would allegedly keep her as a virtual prisoner in his Los Angeles mansion for the next six years.<p>According to Spector, her home with the producer was a virtual house of horrors, with barred windows, guard dogs and electrified fences all put in place to prevent her from ever visiting the outside world. Spector was also required to sit by her husband's side during recording sessions, and on occasion denied food if her behavior displeased him. Initially, he kept her faithful with promises of a solo career, but only two singles emerged during this period, a hopelessly out-of-date R&B track called "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered" (1969) and "Try Some, Buy Some" (1971), a George Harrison composition co-produced by the Beatle that was intended as the first release from a purported comeback album to be released by Apple. But no such record ever surfaced, and Phil resorted to adopting a son, Donté, to buy his wife's devotion. But as time passed, their inner world became even more deeply disturbed: Phil allegedly threatened her with guns or institutionalized her to maintain his control, and reportedly kept a gilded casket in his basement so that he could watch over her even in death. Spector finally escaped her husband's grasp in 1972, filing for divorce soon after. She attempted a relaunch of the Ronettes with Chip Fields and Denise Edwards, but the new trio's singles, released by Buddah Records, found few listeners.<P>For much of the 1970s and 1980s, Spector tried to revive her career through a variety of high-profile releases, from a cover of Billy Joel's "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" (1976) backed by the E Street Band to a 1978 version of the Bonnie Tyler hit "It's a Heartache." None of these efforts could generate any chart placement, a fate also suffered by her first solo album, <i>Siren</i> (1980). Problems with alcohol also exacerbated her struggles, and led in part to the loss of custody of her adopted son, Donté, who later fell into addiction, prostitution and homelessness. Spector would finally secure a bona fide comeback with Eddie Money's Top 5 single "Take Me Home Tonight" (1986), a retro-minded rock-and-soul single that not only name-checked the singer in its lyrics, but gave her signature vocals a long-overdue spotlight. However, a follow-up album, <i>Unfinished Business</i> (1987), failed to make good on the promise of her single with Money. She remained in the news, however, mostly through a 1988 court case pitting the original Ronettes against Phil Spector for nonpayment of royalties, and a 1990 autobiography, <i>Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirits and Madness</i>, which detailed her career as a teen singer, her various love affairs and the lunacy of her relationship to Phil Spector. She would also remain active throughout the decade through guest appearances on various albums and contributions to soundtracks.<p>In 1999, Spector released <i>She Talks To Rainbows</i>, an EP produced by Ramones frontman Johnny Ramone that featured her takes on the aching Johnny Thunders ballad "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory" and the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby," a song penned by Brian Wilson as a tribute to "Be My Baby." The critical success of the release was followed by a watershed moment for the Ronettes in 2001, when they won their court case against Phil Spector. The producer was ordered to pay $3 million in back royalties to the group, but the decision was reversed two years later, resulting in a payment of approximately $10,000 to each member of the group. Spector rebounded that same year with another high-profile EP, <i>Something's Gonna Happen</i> (2003), this time produced by alt-pop singer Marshall Crenshaw. Guest appearances on albums by the Raveonettes and Misfits preceded her third full-length solo LP, <i>The Last of the Rock Stars</i> (2006), which featured contributions by Keith Richards, Patti Smith and numerous others. The following year, Spector, her sister Estelle and Nedra Talley were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It marked the first reunion between all three members in many years, as well as one of the final public appearances of Estelle Bennett, who had suffered from schizophrenia in the years after the Ronettes' breakup, prior to her death in 2009. Spector released a new Christmas EP, <i>Best Christmas Ever</i>, in 2010, which was followed by a cover of the late Amy Winehouse's "Back in Black" (2011). <p><i>By Paul Gaita</i>