God Is In The TV > Features > TRIBUTE: Ronnie Spector

TRIBUTE: Ronnie Spector

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Late yesterday evening the very sad news broke that Ronnie Spector – lead singer with the iconic 1960’s girl group The Ronettes – had died at the age of 78. The Spector family made the announcement on the singer’s official website. Their statement read:

“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.  

All of those truly wonderful characteristics, and many more besides, were evident when we had the great fortune of catching her up on the Park Stage at Glastonbury Festival six years ago. By then she was already more than half a century into a career that had begun in her native New York City in the early 1960s with The Ronettes, a group that Ronnie Spector had formed a few years beforehand with her older sister and cousin.

This career was to take off when The Ronettes signed to record producer Phil Spector’s label in 1963 and a string of chart hits quickly followed. With its famous drum intro and Ronnie Spector’s resounding “oh oh ohs” – inspired by her records by 50’s teen idol Frankie Lymon – their number one single ‘Be My Baby’ provided the template for what was the girl-group sound of that era.

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At Glastonbury in 2016, with her trademark beehive hair and still looking improbably young, Ronnie Spector was joined on stage by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top for ‘Be My Baby’, the closing number of her quite wonderful set. It was an occasion that illustrated the wide-ranging respect in which she was held by a diverse range of other musicians and the huge influence that she had upon them, something that was confirmed by the numerous collaborations she had during her subsequent solo career after The Ronettes had split in 1967. Spector could number George Harrison, Steve Van Zandt of the E Street Band and Ramones frontman Joey Ramone amongst those with whom she then worked.

In 2006, Ronnie Spector released Last of the Rock Stars, her first album in 20 years, and it featured appearances by the Raconteurs, Keith Richards, Patti Smith and The Raveonettes. Ten years later she was to release her fifth, and what would ultimately turn out to be her final studio album, English Heart. She played the last track from that record – a stunning cover of The Bee Gees‘How Can You Mend A Broken Heart’ – at Glastonbury that Friday evening in June 2016, an interpretation of which captured all of the melancholy, enduring energy and indefatigable spirit in her voice.

Photos: Simon Godley

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