Sunday, April 21, 2024

RIP Ronnie Spector, The Voice That Roared Over the Wall of Sound, Taught the Rolling Stones to Dance


There are just no words to express how much I loved Ronnie Spector. I am so sorry to hear she’s died at age 78. She was a warrior. She was the voice of the Wall of Sound, the leader of the Ronettes, the prize jewel in Phil Spector’s crazy crown of thorns. As Keith Richards wrote in his book, “Life,” she taught the Rolling Stones how to dance, literally how to perform. (see story below) Ronnie never retired. She sued Phil and won. She married Jonathan Greenfield, and they were very happy.

A few years ago she tried to launch a new show with her old hits, but Phil was still preventing her from performing them live without charging her. Phil died almost exactly a year ago, and Ronnie was too bereft, or perhaps too ill herself, to speak about it. I am so sorry because she a sweetheart gifted with talent and soul.

As the leader of Spector’s Ronettes, Ronnie Bennett blew the roof off with her actually indescribable, one of a kind voice. It was sweet and sharp and cut through Spector’s famous Wall of Sound like a knife. Every record she made became a lasting tribute to youth and yearning. In later years, after surviving her tumultuous marriage to Phil, Ronnie became a New York fixture with her Christmas shows at BB Kings. She sang the remarkable everlasting songs from the Spector Christmas album to sold out audiences every time she appeared.

In the 70s, Stevie van Zandt produced Ronnie with the E Street Band. She recorded Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.” It’s one of the best tracks ever. van Zandt wrote on Twitter: “ It was an honor to Produce her and encourage her to get back on stage where she remained for the next 45 years. Her record with the E Street Band helped sustain us at a very precarious time (thanks to Steve Popovich). Condolences to her husband and family.

Ronnie also recorded hits with Eddie Money, including “Take Me Home Tonight,” instantly making that record memorable and important.

This is heartbreaking. Ronnie’s sister Estelle, who was one of the Ronettes, died of colon cancer in 2009. The family statement says Ronnie had a brief battle with cancer.

Condolences to Jonathan and her family.

Oh yeah, PS: I’ll fight anyone who says “Be My Baby” isn’t the single greatest pop performance of all time.

Here’s the statement from Ronnie’s family: “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.”

Songwriter Diane Warren, who’d been working with Ronnie in recent years, wrote on Instagram: “Ronnie Spector was the voice of a million teenage dreams including mine.The voice that turned pop songs into pop symphonies. We had recently been in contact as she wanted me to write the song for her upcoming biopic which I was so excited about. Years ago she recorded mine and @desmond.childs song Love On A Rooftop. We were so ecstatic.There are just too many greats leaving us right now. Sing in power forever Ronnie. Make the angels feel like teenagers again”

More Keith Richards: Ronnie Spector Was His First Rock Love

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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