Musicians and friends mourn the death of Ronnie Spector

ronnie spector died

Ronnie Spector, in a vintage publicity photo.

One of the rock world’s greatest singers, Ronnie Spector, has died at the age of 78. As the lead singer of Ronettes hits such as “Be My Baby” and “Walking in the Rain” in the ’60s, and later as a solo artist, Spector had a stunningly powerful and inimitable voice that endeared her to generations of rock fans.

A statement posted on her Facebook page today reads: “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.”

Spector, who was born Veronica Bennett and grew up in New York, entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 as a member of The Ronettes.

“I just heard the news about Ronnie Spector and I don’t know what to say,” wrote Brian Wilson on Facebook. “I loved her voice so much and she was a very special person and a dear friend. I don’t think I ever listened to a song more than ‘Be My Baby’ and this just breaks my heart. Ronnie’s music and spirit will live forever.”

“I’m in total shock!,” wrote Darlene Love on Facebook. “Did not see this one coming. Please give me time to process my thoughts to give Ronnie the proper tribute she deserves. She and I shared so much together.”

Joan Jett wrote on Twitter: “Our dear friend Ronnie Spector, has passed. She was the sweetest person you could ever know. And her mark on rock and roll is indelible.”

“It was an honor to Produce her and encourage her to get back on stage where she remained for the next 45 years. Her record with the E Street Band helped sustain us at a very precarious time (thanks to Steve Popovich),” wrote Steven Van Zandt on Twitter, referring to her 1977 single with the E Street Band, “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.” “Condolences to her husband and family.”

Spector appeared on Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes 1976 debut album, I Don’t Want to Go Home, which was produced by Van Zandt, and toured with the group.

“Ronnie Spector was full of life and a delight to know,” said Southside Johnny. “She was definitely one of the high points of my teenage years and one of the high points of my touring life. When she came on stage with The Jukes the crowd went crazy. And, I got to play castanets! Who could ask for more. Rest in a groove, Ronnie.”

Southside continued: “Ronnie traveled with us in a makeshift bus that was part of the Bergenline route that we had re-fitted with brass beds. She never complained. She had a great time and we really enjoyed having her on the road. Of course, once she walked on stage I was dead meat. But I loved working with her and it was a thrill getting to sing with one of your vocal influences. And yes she was an influence. Her vibrato was something I stole to use in certain songs. One thing I am sure, she won’t see Phil Spector where she’s going. Bye-bye, Baby.”

The Ronettes (from left, Nedra Talley, Ronnie Spector and Estelle Bennett).

Ronnie Spector also made guest appearances at several shows by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band; introducing her to the crowd at the Palladium in New York in 1976, Springsteen called her “somebody really special” as well as someone “who I love and wanted to marry ever since I heard her first record. … and I still do.”

Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken frequently backed Spector in concert. “The Smithereens were fortunate to grow up with The Ronettes’ records reverberating in our thirsty ears,” Diken said on Facebook. “We took tons of inspiration from the beat, the power of a group of great musicians playing together and Ronnie’s wall of soul vocals.

“I was so damn lucky to have played a bunch of shows with Ronnie for about 10 years. Every time I sat behind the drum set the enormity of how cool it was to be up there was never lost on me. Never.”

Some other reactions:

Keith Richards: “Ronnie was a very dear friend and she leaves a huge gap. How I’m going to miss that infectious laugh and that great voice.”

John Eddie: “Ronnie Spector’s voice on ‘Be My Baby’ was what my teenage self imagined falling in love sounded like. Her ‘whoa whoa whoa’s’ made me feel funny inside. They still do.”

Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie: “A true rock n roll star has left the building and left us breathless. This positively brilliant, dangerous, beguiling and ferociously sexy woman stole our heart with the Ronettes and never gave it back. She went through some heavy shit in her life, but she came out on top.

“Oh and she sang one of the top 10 greatest songs of all time.”

Amy Rigby: “I’m feeling beyond sad about Ronnie Spector’s passing. How unique and perfect in her bad-girlness was she? It’s one of the biggest honors of my life that she recorded a song I wrote with her voice in my head. Her husband Jonathan and family and all those who loved her and the musicians who rocked with her are in my thoughts. There’ll never be anyone else like her. Aren’t we lucky to have shared this world with her?” (Note: The song she is referring to is “All I Want”).

Spector, according to her Facebook page, requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to local women’s shelters or the American Indian College Fund. The message also said that a celebration of her life will be announced in the future.

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