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Profile: The Ronettes

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The Ronettes in their heyday

The Ronettes in their heyday

source: spectropop.com

Formed:

1959 (Washington Heights, New York, NY)

Genres:

Girl group, Pop, R&B

Members:

Veronica "Ronnie" Bennett (b. August 10, 1943, New York, NY): lead vocals
Estelle Bennett (b. July 22, 1944, New York, NY): vocals
Nedra Talley (b. January 27, 1947, New York, NY): vocals

Contributions to music:

  • The first "girl group" to cultivate a visual image and unique musical sound
  • Their 1963 "Be My Baby" is thought of as the best girl-group song of all time, and one of rock's towering achievements
  • Defined Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" production techniques
  • Crucial to the success of the "Brill Building" songwriters
  • Ronnie Spector is considered one of rock's greatest survival stories
  • Ronnie is also recognized as one of the finest and most emotional vocalists in rock and pop history

Early years:

Encouraged by their grandmother to begin vocalizing at a young age, the two Bennett sisters and their cousin Nedra were already a vocal trio called The Darling Sisters by the time they attended junior high. However, one night, while hanging outside New York's trendy Peppermint Lounge (made famous by the song "Peppermint Twist"), they were mistaken for a girl group already booked by the management. They of course performed anyway, and were a smash hit with their sultry good looks and smoking cover of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say." Later, as Ronnie and the Relatives, they recorded for the Colpix label without success.

Success:

Soon the girls met legendary producer Phil Spector, ostensibly through 16 Magazine writer Gloria Winters, although legend has it that Estelle first talked to Spector after dialing a wrong number. Whichever is the case, the young producer instantly fell for Ronnie, and saw the group in general as the kind he could mold into his perfect pop creation. Before long, the group had scored a massive hit with "Be My Baby," which established Spector's trademark sound like no other record. Several other hits followed, but they made more of an impact with the Brits than in America.

Later years:

By the late Sixties, Ronnie had married Phil, changed her last name to Spector, and gone solo, scoring a contract with the Beatles' new enterprise, Apple Records. The producer's increasingly erratic behavior, which included locking his wife up in their mansion, ensured that her solo career never got off the ground. Literally escaping in 1973, she attempted several hit singles, but poor planning and changing musical tastes kept her off the charts until the mid-Eighties, when she sang "Be My Baby" as part of Eddie Money's hit "Take Me Home Tonight." She continues to perform today.

Other facts:

  • Won amateur night at Harlem's famous Apollo Theater in 1960
  • The Ronettes performed as backup for Joey Dee and Murray The K, and brought Murray to meet the Beatles for the first time
  • "Walking In The Rain" earned Spector his only Grammy -- for Best Sound Effects
  • Toured with the Rolling Stones in England before they became stars in the States
  • Billy Joel's "Say Goodbye To Hollywood," Bonnie Tyler's "It's A Heartache," and the Ramones' "She Talks To Rainbows" were all originally written for and recorded by Ronnie Spector

Awards/Honors:

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2007)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (1999)
  • Vocal Hall of Fame (2004)

Recorded work:

Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "Be My Baby" (1963)
R&B:
  • "Be My Baby" (1963)
Other important recordings: "Why Don't They Let Us Fall in Love," "I Wonder," "Baby I Love You," "Sleigh Ride," "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "Frosty The Snowman," "(The Best Part Of) Breakin' Up," "When I Saw You," "Do I Love You?," "I'm So Young," "You Baby," "How Does It Feel?," "Walking In The Rain," "Born To Be Together," "Is This What I Get For Loving You?," "Oh I Love You," "Paradise," "Here I Sit," "I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine," "Everything Under The Sun," "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered," "I Can Hear Music"
Covered by: Travis, The Ramones, Beth Orton, The Turtles, Brian Wilson, Patti Smith, The Shangri-Las, The Beach Boys, John Lennon, Marianne Faithfull, Erasure
Appears in the movies: "Twist Around The Clock" (1962)," "The Big T.N.T. Show" (1966) Ronnie Spector: "Zoo" (1999)
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