Veronica Yvette Bennett (born August 10, 1943), better known by her stage name Ronnie Spector, is an American rock and roll singer. Spector was the lead singer of the rock/pop vocal girl group the Ronettes, which had a string of hits during the early to mid–1960s. She has sung and collaborated with multiple other acts. Spector is called the original "bad girl of rock and roll".
Spector was born Veronica Yvette Bennett in New York City, the daughter of an African-American/Cherokee mother and Irish-American father. She and her sister, Estelle Bennett (1941–2009), were encouraged to sing by their large family, as was their cousin, Nedra Talley. All three women later became members of the Darling Sisters, later known as the Ronettes.
The Ronettes were a popular live attraction around the greater New York area in the early 1960s. Looking for a recording contract, they initially were signed to Colpix Records and produced by Stu Phillips.
After releasing a few singles on Colpix without success, they were signed by Phil Spector to Philles Records. Their relationship with Spector brought chart success with "Be My Baby", "Baby, I Love You", "The Best Part of Breakin' Up", "Do I Love You?", and "Walking in the Rain". The group had two top 100 hits in 1965: "Born to Be Together" and "Is This What I Get for Loving You?" The group broke up in early 1967, following a European concert tour that included their appearance at the Moonlight Lounge, in Gelnhausen, Germany, where they entertained American military personnel. The Ronettes were never to reunite until their 2007 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The group's last single, "I Can Hear Music", on the Philles Records label (# 133), was released in the fall of 1966. Instead of recording on the West coast, Ronnie and her group returned to New York City, their hometown to record "I Can Hear Music" with producer Jeff Barry. Phil Spector kept many of the group's unreleased songs in the vault for years.
Ronnie's very last recording of the 1960s "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered," was credited as "The Ronettes Featuring the Voice of Veronica," appeared in 1969 on Herb Alpert's A&M Records label, with "Oh I Love You", an old Ronettes B-side, as the flip. Only Ronnie's voice was used for the lead and background vocals on "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered". Ronnie's recording and performing career had begun its long hiatus.
In February 1971, during Phil Spector's tenure as head of A&R at Apple Records, Spector recorded the single "Try Some, Buy Some/Tandoori Chicken" at Abbey Road Studios, released as Apple 33 in the UK and Apple 1832 in the US. The A-side was written by George Harrison, and produced by both him and Spector. Although the single was not a big hit, its backing track was used two years later for Harrison's own version of the song, on his chart-topping Living in the Material World album. "Try Some, Buy Some" had another lasting influence when John Lennon recorded "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" later the same year and asked Spector (co-producing again) to reproduce the mandolin-laden Wall of Sound he had created for Spector's single. Lennon liked the rockabilly B-side too; he sang it at his birthday party in New York in October 1971 (a recording of which has appeared on bootlegs). Spector recorded other Harrison songs during those London sessions − including "You" and "When Every Song Is Sung" − but her versions were never released, even though a full album had been planned originally.
In the early to mid-1970s, Spector briefly reformed the Ronettes (as Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes) with two new members (Chip Fields Hurd, the mother of actress Kim Fields, and Diane Linton). In her book, Spector recounted several abortive attempts to recapture mainstream success throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, during which time she was widely perceived as an oldies act.
In 1976, Ronnie sang a duet with Southside Johnny on the recording "You Mean So Much To Me", penned by Southside's longtime friend Bruce Springsteen and produced by Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band. This was the final track on the Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes' debut album I Don't Want to Go Home. She also made appearances with the band the following year.
In 1983, Spector and the other Ronettes sued Phil Spector for non-payment of royalties. They eventually won a $3 million judgement in 2003 and established the terms of the group's 1963 contract as binding.
In 1986, Spector enjoyed a resurgence to popular radio airplay as the featured vocalist on Eddie Money's Top 5 hit, "Take Me Home Tonight", in which she answers Money's chorus lyric, "just like Ronnie sang", with, "be my little baby". The song's music video was one of the top videos of the year and in heavy rotation on MTV. During this period, she also recorded the song "Tonight You're Mine, Baby" (from the film Just One of the Guys).
In 1988, Spector began performing at the Ronnie Spector's Christmas Party, a seasonal staple at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City. In 1999, she released the 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 2004 Ronnie was recognized for her contribution to American popular music when she was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
In 2007, Spector and the Ronettes were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Spector provided guest vocals on the track "Ode to LA", on The Raveonettes' album Pretty in Black (2005). Spector's album, Last of the Rock Stars (2006), was released by Bad Girl Sounds and featured contributions from members of The Raconteurs, Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Raveonettes, Patti Smith, and Keith Richards. Spector herself co-produced two of the songs. A Christmas EP, Ronnie Spector's Best Christmas Ever, was released on Bad Girl Sounds in November 2010, featuring five new Christmas songs.
In 2011, after the death of Amy Winehouse, Ronnie Spector released her version of Winehouse's single "Back to Black" (2006) as a tribute and for the benefit of the Daytop Village addiction treatment centers. She has also performed this song as part of her live act, including during her UK tour in 2015.
In 2016, she released, through 429 Records, English Heart, her first album of new material in a decade. The album features her versions of songs of the British Invasion by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Bee Gees, and others produced by Scott Jacoby. English Heart peaked at #6 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart.
On August 9, 2017, People Magazine premiered a new single Love Power produced by Narada Michael Walden by Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes, making it the first Ronettes single in decades. The song was released August 18, 2017.
Ronnie Spector was married to Phil Spector from 1968 to 1974 and took his name professionally. They adopted three children: Donté, Louis, and Gary Phillip. Spector kept her imprisoned in their California mansion and subjected her to years of psychological torment. As she details in her 1990 memoir, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness, she escaped barefoot with the help of her mother in 1972. Ronnie Spector lives in the area of Danbury, Connecticut with her second husband, Jonathan Greenfield (whom she married in 1982), and their two sons, Austin Drew and Jason Charles.
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