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Ronnie Spector dies at 78

The Ronettes’ legendary leader has passed away.

January 12, 2022
Ronnie Spector dies at 78 Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images.  

Ronnie Spector, the singular singer who formed and fronted The Ronettes, died today of at 78. Spector's family revealed the sad news in a message they posted to her official website. "Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today after a brief battle with cancer," the statement reads.

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Born Veronica Yvette Bennett in Spanish Harlem, she started The Darling Sisters with her older sister Estelle and their cousin, Nedra Talley, in 1957. They changed their name to The Ronettes after signing with Phil Spector, who produced for them on a string of megahits such as "Be My Baby," "Baby, I Love You," "Walking in the Rain," and "(The Best Part of) Breakin' Up." They disbanded in 1967.

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Ronnie married Phil Spector in 1968. He abused her physically and psychologically — holding her captive in his Alhambra, California castle — as well professionally, refusing to let her record new music. "I thought I wasn't going to sing again and that I was going to die there," she told People Magazine in 2018. They divorced in 1974, but she struggled with alcoholism and depression, and didn't release her solo debut until six years later.

Ronnie Spector recorded late into her life, releasing three more solo studio LPs after 1980's Siren. She's been cited as an influence by artists from the Ramones to Amy Winehouse to Zendaya, and was extended a long-overdue invitation to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. She'll be remembered as a pure pop vocalist, a musician whose sound defines a golden age in American music.

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Read her family's full statement below.

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.

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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.

Ronnie Spector dies at 78