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RIP Ronnie Spector

The Ronettes' iconic lead singer has died at 78 after a brief battle with cancer.

Ronnie Spector, the iconic rock ’n’ roll siren who belted out 1960s hits like Be My Baby, Baby I Love You and Walking in the Rain with the girl group The Ronettes, has died, according to media reports. She was 78.

Spector died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer, her family said. “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,” a statement said. No other details were revealed.

The Ronettes’ look and voices — plus songwriting and production from future husband Phil Spector — turned them into one of the premier acts of the girl-group era. Spector, formed the group alongside her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley.

“We weren’t afraid to be hot. That was our gimmick,” Spector said in her memoir. “When we saw The Shirelles walk on stage with their wide party dresses, we went in the opposite direction and squeezed our bodies into the tightest skirts we could find. Then we’d get out on stage and hike them up to show our legs even more.”

Spector, born Veronica Bennett, and her multiracial bandmates grew up in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. They began singing and dancing in clubs as Ronnie and the Relatives, becoming noteworthy for their liberal use of eyeliner and mascara.

“The louder they applauded, the more mascara we put on the next time,” she wrote. “We didn’t have a hit record to grab their attention, so we had to make an impression with our style. None of it was planned out; we just took the look we were born with and extended it.”

In March 1963, the group auditioned in front of Phil Spector, known for his big, brass-and-drum style dubbed the “wall of sound.” They were signed to Phillies Records in 1963. After being signed, they sang backup for other acts until Spector had the group record Be My Baby and Baby I Love You.

The Ronettes broke up in 1967. Spector married Ronnie in 1968, then kept her locked in their Beverly Hills mansion, she claimed in her her 1990 autobiography Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness. The couple divorced in 1974. Phil Spector was sent to prison in 2009 for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson and died in 2020. She is survived her husband, Jonathan Greenfield, and two sons, Jason and Austin.