Ronnie Spector dead at 78 – Ronettes star's cause of death revealed as cancer exactly a year after ex Phil Spector died

RONNIE Spector has died at the age of 78 her family have revealed.

The Ronettes legend was an extraordinary singer best known around the world for hits including "Be My Baby".

Spector was lead singer in the girl group, which formed in the early 1960s and also celebrated hits like “Baby I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain.”

She also married svengali producer Phil Spector in 1968, suffering years of abuse and death threats before eventually escaping their mansion in 1972 in a barefoot dash with the help of her mother.

When Spector – who was later convicted of murder – died in January 2021 age 81, Ronnie said "He was a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband".

Ronnie's family yesterday released a statement announcing her death, saying she had a brief battle with cancer but no other details were revealed.

Read our Ronnie Spector live blog below for the latest news

  • Joseph Gamp

    Statement from Ronnie Spector's family

    On January 12, 2022, Ronnie Spector's family released a statement through her official website, which announced her death.

    “Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor, and a smile on her face," her family said. 

    The statement also read: "She was filled with love and gratitude."

  • Louis Allwood

    'Ringing out into the universe forever'

    On the day of her death people took to Twitter to express their grief and memories of the artist.

    “I like to think about Ronnie Spector’s voice ringing out into the universe forever,” one user wrote.

    “Very sad to hear that the sensational and unique Ronnie Spector has left this world. She sang on some of the most magical pop tracks ever made,” another user tweeted.

  • Louis Allwood

    “A thin line between love and hate”

    Donte, who was born on March 23, 1969, told the Daily Mail that Spector was abusive toward him and his brothers, saying that his relationship with his father was “a thin line between love and hate.”

    He also alleged that Spector “locked him and his brothers in their bedrooms with 'locks on the door.'"

    Donte claimed he'd left home at the age of 10 after years of abuse.

    The couple divorced in 1974, with Bennett reportedly forfeiting all future record earnings because she alleged that Spector threatened her with a “hitman”.

  • Louis Allwood

    'Forced to escape'

    Ronnie, alleged in her memoir Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness that Spector controlled her every move.

    Ronnie said she was forced to escape their home barefoot and with the help of her mother back in 1972.

    She describes how Spector went "absolutely nuts" and pulled her shoe off and stuck it in his belt, screaming, “Let’s see how far you get now.”

    He then threatened Ronnie yelling at her that he would "destroy" her if she even thought about divorcing him, the book says.

    Ronnie's mother then jumped in and started screaming and hitting Spector and she and Ronnie tried to escape.

    She also told how she spent her wedding night hiding in a bathroom with her mother while Spector tried to beat the door down in a drunken rage.

  • Louis Allwood

    'Beyond the Beehive'

    In 2012, Ronnie debuted her biographical one-woman show 'Beyond the Beehive' in New York City to star-studded audiences and standing ovations.

    Following several more sold-out Gotham shows, Ronnie took 'Beyond the Beehive' to London for its premier UK performance at Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2014.

    In 2015, Sony Music released The Very Best of Ronnie Spector, the first cross–label collection of her career.

  • Louis Allwood

    Death was attributed to “a brief battle with cancer”

    In the website’s message, Ronnie’s cause of death was attributed to “a brief battle with cancer.”

    They continued: “A celebration of Ronnie’s life and music will be announced in the future.”

    “The family respectfully asks for privacy at this time,” the family’s statement concluded.

  • Louis Allwood

    Who were Ronnie's children?

    Ronnie Spector had a total of five children with two different men.

    She had a total of three children with ex-husband Phil Spector.

    Ronnie went on to have another two children with her second husband Jonathan Greenfield.

    Her children include Donte Phillip Spector, Gary Phillip Spector, Louis Phillip Spector, Jason Charles Greenfield, and Austin Drew Greenfield.

  • Louis Allwood

    Ronnie's early life

    Ronnie Spector was raised in Spanish Harlem in her early life and her Official website goes on to talk about how her group began.

    It says, "Ronnie Spector was born and raised in Spanish Harlem. She formed the Ronettes while in her teens and released her first records in 1961 on the Colpix label.

    "The Ronettes were also professional singers and dancers at New York’s Peppermint Lounge. There they were discovered by legendary disc jockey “Murray the K" (Murray Kaufman), who promptly hired them as dancers for his Brooklyn Fox Theater rock and roll revues."

  • Louis Allwood

    'We squeezed our bodies into the tightest skirts'

    They were known for their sexy look and powerful voices, as well as for scoring many of their biggest hits.

    “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.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Beatles and Rolling stones among names the group toured with

    The Ronettes befriended The Beatles and toured with The Rolling Stones at the height of their fame as one of the premier acts of the girl-group era.

    Spector's sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley made up the other members of the group.

  • Louis Allwood

    Family have said she lived life with a 'twinkle in her eye'

    Her family said in a statement announcing her death that she had a brief battle with cancer but no other details were revealed.

    “Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor, and a smile on her face,” her family said.

    “She was filled with love and gratitude.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Ronnie Spector dies after battle with cancer

    Ronnie Spector, famed for hits such as “Be My Baby”, died on Wednesday aged 78 after a brief battle with cancer.

    The rock’n’roll siren was the leader of the girl group The Ronettes, who also celebrated hits such as “Baby I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain.”

    Tributes have flooded in with one fan saying "I have loved playing the Ronettes songs over the years as they had such a unique sound.They were so influential in the sixties and their music will last forever.R.I.P."

  • Louis Allwood

    Most recent success came days before her death

    On new years day of 2022, Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes hit the Top Ten of Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart.

    This was the first time since "Be My Baby" in 1963, a record return to the Top Ten following a 58-year gap.

    The official Ronnie Spector website said "The style, look, and sound of Ronnie Spector continue to serve as an inspiration and role model for generations."

  • Louis Allwood

    “Single of the Month” in Britain’s influential MOJO Magazine

    In 2011 Ronnie had a 'magical' year as her cover of Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" was named“Single of the Month” in Britain’s influential MOJO Magazine.

    Following this 2011 became even better when she appeared with Lou Reed, Macy Gray, Dr. John and Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen in a benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America at Harlem’s hallowed Apollo Theater.

  • Louis Allwood

    'Be My Baby'

    One of the most popular songs by the Ronettes was 'Be My Baby' which was released in August 1963 and then featured on their 1964 album, 'Presenting the fabulous Ronettes'.

    The song was written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwhich and Phil Spector.

    Be My Baby was the Ronettes' biggest hit reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was considered one of the best songs of the 1960's by NME.

  • Louis Allwood

    How did Ronnie react to Phil Spector’s death? (Continued…)

    She said falling in love with the producer was a "fairy tale" and the music they made was "inspired by their love."

    Bennet died after a brief battle against cancer on January 12, 2022, as confirmed by her family via the singer's website.

    In the statement, her family wrote: “Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor, and a smile on her face," her family said. 

    "She was filled with love and gratitude."

  • Louis Allwood

    How did Ronnie react to Phil Spector's death?

    In a tribute posted on Instagram, Bennett said: "It’s a sad day for music and a sad day for me.

    "When I was working with Phil Spector, watching him create in the recording studio, I knew I was working with the very best.

    "He was in complete control, directing everyone. So much to love about those days."

  • Louis Allwood

    Family ask for 'donations to be made to your local women's shelter'

    The Family's statement continued by saying "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."

  • Louis Allwood

    Ronnie Spector described as 'one of the great voices'

    One user took to Twitter to say "RIP A wonderful woman. One of THE great voices of our time."

    Another said, "Very sad to hear that the sensational and unique Ronnie Spector has left this world. She sang on some of the most magical pop tracks ever made."

  • Louis Allwood

    When did Ronnie Spectors ex-husband Phil Spector die? 

    His daughter, Nicole Audrey Spector, told The New York Times that he died of complications from Covid-19.

    She told the outlet her father was taken to San Joaquin General Hospital on New Year's Eve and was intubated in January 2021.

    Sources told TMZ the jailed producer died of Covid complications.

    However, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the cause of death is under investigation.

    Spector had been serving a 19-year-to-life sentence in prison for the murder of Lana Clarkson.

    The CDCR said in a statement: "California Health Care Facility inmate Phillip Spector, 80, was pronounced deceased of natural causes at 6:35 p.m. on Saturday, January 16, 2021, at an outside hospital."

  • Louis Allwood

    Twitter has become flooded with tributes

    Many users have taken to Twitter to share their condolences and reflect on the amazing career of Ronnie Spector.

    One user said "Ronnie spector’s sensibilities and sound changed the world forever. may this icon rest in peace. may we lift her memory up."

    Another wrote "Ronnie Spector's voice was EXTRAORDINARY and ICONIC."

  • Louis Allwood

    The group split in 1967

    Ronnie Spector's real name was Veronica Yvette Bennett, and she formed The Ronettes with her sister Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley.

    Once they had signed a record deal, the successful hits flooded in but the group broke up in 1967.

    Ronnie went on to begin her solo career and released 5 studio albums.

  • Louis Allwood

    'Sensational and unique Ronnie Spector'

    On the day of her death people took to Twitter to express their grief and memories of the artist.

    "I like to think about Ronnie Spector's voice ringing out into the universe forever," one user wrote.

    "Very sad to hear that the sensational and unique Ronnie Spector has left this world. She sang on some of the most magical pop tracks ever made," another user tweeted.

  • Louis Allwood

    The groups early years

    They were signed to Phillies Records in 1963, first acting as backup for other groups.

    That was until Phil Spector had the group record “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You.”

    The Ronettes' first album “Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica" was released in 1964.

    Five of its tracks made it to the US Billboard charts.

    “Nothing excites me more than just being onstage, having fun and flirting and winking to the guys and stuff like that,” Spector told People Magazine in 2017.

    “I just have so much fun. It’s just the best feeling when I go out and they say, 'Ladies and gentlemen…' —my heart stops for a minute—'…Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes!'

    "Then I just go out there and the crowd reacts the way they react and I can go on singing forever.”

  • Louis Allwood

    When was she married to Phil Spector?

    During his marriage with his first wife Annette Merar, Spector was allegedly having an affair with Ronnie Bennett.

    Spector divorced Merar in 1966 and married Ronnie in 1968.

    The Ronettes singer took his name and was known as Ronnie Spector.

    She alleged in her memoir Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness that Spector controlled her every move and subjected her to emotional distress while married.

    The pair divorced in 1974, with Ronnie reportedly forfeiting all future record earnings because she alleged that Spector threatened her with a “hitman”.

    After news of his death broke, she posted on Instagram: "It’s a sad day for music and a sad day for me.

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