Estelle Bennett is best known for her stint as one third of the 1960's iconic girl pop group The Ronettes, who helped pave the path that many female musicians walk today; making top 40 hits like "Be My Baby," "Walking In the Rain," and "Baby I Love You." The singer, who shied away from the spotlight after the group disbanded in late 1966, passed away this past Wednesday in her Englewood, New Jersey apartment. She was 67.
Bennett's career started in New York City where she and her sister, Ronnie Spector, and cousin, Nedra Talley, began singing together, winning talent shows at the Apollo, and eventually teaming up with the legendary producer Phil Spector to bring them to stardom. Though short lived, the hits they made while performing gained The Ronettes a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2007, and upon accepting her honor, the quiet Bennett simply said, "I'm Estelle of the Ronettes."
Despite her outwardly coy demeanor, Bennett led a hard life, according to fellow Ronette and cousin Talley, who said Bennett battled with schizophrenia and anorexia in her life. Regardless of her troubles, Bennett was known for her warm kindness, as Talley described her as being, "not pretentious at all, but she carried herself with a sophistication... She had a very, very good heart."
The cause of Bennett's death has yet to be known, but those who knew her speculate the singer was deeply affected emotionally. "I think she really just died of a broken heart," said Kevin Dilworth, a former Star-Ledger reporter and friend, who discovered something was wrong when Bennett was unreachable. "After that group disbanded in 1966, I don't think she was ever right again."
Bennett is survived by both sister Ronnie, cousin Nedra, and daughter Toyin Hunter and her three grandsons who live in Santa Monica, California.