How Ronnie Spector Charmed Rock Gods John Lennon and Keith Richards

With her sultry beauty and melodic vocals, she helped shape the sixties girl group phenomenon.

Hair tied high and wearing mascara, Ronnie Spector soared to global superstardom as the lead singer of American hit makers The Ronettes.

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She was born Veronica Bennett in 1943 in New York to an Irish father and a half-African-American, half-Cherokee mother.Credit: Getty Images – Getty
Behind the glitter, she lived in a nightmarish marriage to a mentally ill American producer, Phil Spector.

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Behind the glitter, she lived in a nightmarish marriage to a mentally ill American producer, Phil Spector.1 credit

Tracks such as “Be My Baby” and “Baby”, “I Love You” excited fans, she was pursued by John Lennon, Keith Richards, and later David Bowie.



However, behind the glitz, she lived in a nightmarish marriage to a mentally ill American producer, Phil Spector. He kept her captive in their mansion, only letting her out with a life-size mannequin in her car.

Ronnie, who died of cancer on Wednesday at the age of 78, finally escaped him by running barefoot into the night after he confiscated all of her shoes.



“I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would die there,” she recalled.

Ultimately, the mom-of-five sued Spector, winning over a million dollars in royalties, and rebuilt her personal and professional life.



She was born Veronica Bennett in 1943 in New York to an Irish father and a half-African-American, half-Cherokee mother. As a teenager, she formed what would become the Ronettes with older sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley.

The girls signed to Colpix Records in 1961 as the Darling Sisters, but the hit continued to elude them.

So Estelle called Phil Spector’s Phillies office. After the audition, he signed with a band that was then renamed The Ronettes.

Backed by famed producer Wall of Sound magic, the band scored numerous hits, including the Grammy-winning song “Walking In The Rain”. They toured the US in 1966 as the opening act for The Beatles, and the Rolling Stones supported them on a UK tour.

“They could sing right through the wall of sound,” Keith Richards of the Stones later said. “They touched my heart right here and now and still touch it today.”
But it was not only the vocals that fascinated – as Ronnie put it, the girls “were not afraid to be hot.” She said, “We squeezed into the tightest skirts we could find. Then we went on stage and lifted them up to show our legs even more.

“We played a show for the US troops in Germany and the guys had orgasms on the floor. I thought, “What are they doing?” I don’t recognize a single dance.”

Indeed, with bee-hive hair, cat-like eyes, and swaying hips, Ronnie was the perfect siren of the sixties—so much so that a major biopic with American singer and actress Zendaya is now in the works.

Ronnie once joked that Stones guitarist Richards “always had a crush on me” – and on John Lennon too.

She said, “John was really deeply in love. I will never forget how I sat on the windowsill, looked at the light and said: “London is so beautiful.” He said, “Of course.” because he was looking at me. I wanted to cry, I felt like such a star. I knew I did it.”

But she insists that there were no “handkerchiefs”. She was 20 and already dating her Svengal producer Spector. Their romance began in 1963, when he was still married to singer Annette Merar. But Spector soon moved his muse into his 23-room mansion in Beverly Hills.

Ronnie said: “I fell in love with his coolness, the way he behaved with the group. Here is a guy, 24 years old, still telling married men with children what to do? It turned me on. I fell in love with this power.”

But she soon learned that his power play would go beyond the music studio.
Ronnie and Phil married in 1968, and on their wedding night, she woke up to workers putting up a barbed wire fence around the estate. Soon bars were installed on the windows, intercoms were installed in all rooms.

Ronnie was rarely allowed outside alone, except with a life-sized Spector mannequin in the passenger seat of her car. But the worst thing was the inability to perform on stage.

She said, “I longed for it.”

They adopted son Donte Phillip in 1969, but two years later Ronnie started talking about a divorce.

Phil talks her out with a surprise Christmas present – six-year-old twins he adopted. But their new sons Louis and Gary entered the riot house – and as Spector’s abusive behavior continued, Ronnie drank heavily.

She said: “The last year of my marriage, I didn’t talk at all. Because if I said anything, he would yell at me.

In June 1972, Ronnie ran off into the night barefoot.

Shortly thereafter, the twisted Spector invited his mother-in-law to his basement to look at Ronnie’s next resting place, a solid gold coffin with a glass lid “so I can look after her after she dies.”

During their divorce in 1974, she forfeited all future record earnings after Phil swore that an assassin would kill her. She also refused custody of her children.

Ronnie then tried to rebuild her career, keeping the Spector name professionally because “I needed to get back by any means.”

She also had a brief affair with David Bowie after being invited to meet him after a New York concert in the mid-seventies.

She said: “I went into the room and David Bowie was standing there naked. Every light was on, bright, bright, bright, like it was in Yankee Stadium. You can understand it from there. Great night and he was a great guy.”

Ronnie began performing in the modernized Ronettes – without her cousin and sister, who later developed schizophrenia.

She released a number of singles in the seventies, and in 1980 she debuted her solo album Siren.

In the same year, she met her future husband, Jonathan Greenfield, who was 15 years her junior. They had two sons and lived together in Connecticut until her death.

In 2009, Spector was convicted of murdering 40-year-old American actress and model Lana Clarkson. She was shot in the mansion where Ronnie was sure she would die.

Asked about Spector’s life behind bars – before he died last year at the age of 81 – she said: “It’s wonderful. The more he tried to destroy me, the stronger I became. It made me think, “How dare you, I don’t belong to you.”

History will remember him as a killer and her as a pop goddess.

With beehive-colored hair, cat eyes, and swaying hips, Ronnie was a real siren of the sixties.

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With beehive-colored hair, cat eyes, and swaying hips, Ronnie was a real siren of the sixties.1 credit
Backed by the famed magic of producer Wall of Sound, the band delivered numerous hits, including the Grammy-winning song

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Backed by the famed magic of producer Wall of Sound, the band delivered numerous hits, including the Grammy-winning song “Walking In The Rain”.1 credit
They toured the US in 1966 as the opening act for The Beatles, and the Rolling Stones supported them on a UK tour.

5

They toured the US in 1966 as the opening act for The Beatles, and the Rolling Stones supported them on a UK tour.1 credit
Ronnie Spector has died at the age of 78 – the lead singer of the Ronettes, the author of the hit Be My Baby, has died

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