On January 12, ‘60s icon and rock phenomenon Ronnie Spector passed away at 78 after a brief battle with cancer. Largely known for fronting The Ronettes, she sang hits from ‘Be My Baby’ to ‘Walking In The Rain’.
Although it’s Joan Jett and Alanis Morisette who wave the female rock queen banner, Spector was the original “bad girl of rock and roll”. After forming singing group the Darling Sisters with her sister Estelle and cousin Nedra, they later became the Ronettes and signed to Phil Spector’s Philles label.
Ronnie married Phil in 1968, after which he forbade her to perform. He was a cruel and snarling abuser who kept her locked away from the world. But by 1972 she’d escaped, divorcing him and returning to stage after industry giants encouraged her to.
“I went right back, because I had people like Keith Richards and John Lennon and Billy Joel and David Bowie — even Springsteen — telling me, ‘Ronnie, you have the voice of all voices,’” Spector told Vice in 2016.
She was a pioneer to all, influencing the greatest voices of today. Amy Winehouse took great inspiration from the late singer.
“This might be not a huge surprise to anyone but Ronnie Spector was a hero to Amy Winehouse,” songwriter Mark Ronson wrote on Twitter. “It’s one of the first things Amy made me listen to before we started working. She was incredible. Thank you Ronnie for the inspiration.”
Following Winehouse’s sudden death in 2011, Spector paid tribute to her with a cover of ‘Back To Black’, sending proceeds to Daytop Village treatment centre for battles against drug addiction.
“When I saw her two weeks ago on TV and she was all drugged out, drinking and stuff, I said, ‘Damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it! Don’t become like I was 20 years ago! I cleaned up. You gotta clean up!’ And two weeks later, she’s dead. I’m devastated,” Spector told Rolling Stone at the time.
During Phil Spector’s terrifying abuse, Ronnie would have her shoes confiscated to prevent her from leaving. And, just in case, he had the house surrounded with barbed wire and guard dogs, she revealed in her 1990 memoir Be My Baby. She began heavily drinking to combat the stress and attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to escape the torture.
Following their separation, she reformed the Ronettes and began performing again. In 1980, she released her debut solo album Siren, and revived her career after featuring on Eddie Money’s song ‘Take Me Home Tonight’.
She released four more albums and was welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Long admired and enshrined in the industry, she leaves behind a legacy of unforgettable vibrato and a pure, crystal-clear tone.
Featured image credit: Rolling Stone