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Members include Estelle Bennett (born on July 22, 1944, in New York, NY), vocals; Veronica "Ronnie" Bennett (born on August 10, 1943, in New York, NY; married and divorced Phil Spector), vocals; Nedra Talley (born on January 27, 1946, in New York, NY), vocals. Addresses: Website--Ronnie Spector Official Website: http://www.ronniespector.com.
Although their 1963 hit single "Be My Baby" was their only top-ten hit, the song made the Ronettes pop music icons. Producer and svengali Phil Spector turned the three New York City girls into stars with songs from the legendary Brill Building stable of writers. The Ronettes broke the 1960's girl-group mold with their bad-girl style and lead singer Ronnie Spector's trademark hard-but-sweet voice. Sadly, the story turned sour for the Ronettes and they disbanded in 1966, but they remain a fixture in pop-music history.
Sisters Veronica ("Ronnie") and Estelle Bennett began dancing and singing with their cousin Nedra Talley when they were schoolgirls in New York City's Washington Heights/Spanish Harlem area. They took their musical cues from popular doo-wop groups like Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and Little Anthony & the Imperials. Calling themselves the Darling Sisters, the girls won the amateur talent contest at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater while they were all still teenagers.
The Peppermint Lounge, home of the twist dance craze, was New York's place to be in 1961. The three girls were standing in line waiting to get into the club one night when the man at the door waved to them and hurried them into the building. "Girls, you're late," he said. He'd mistaken them for that night's entertainment, and none of the three was going to tell him any different. They took the stage, and ended up becoming a regular act at the trendy club. They also appeared in the film Twist around the Clock. By the time they released their first single "I Want A Boy" later that year, they'd become Ronnie & the Relatives. Not long after, when they released their follow-up single, 1962's "Silhouettes," they had streamlined their name to the Ronettes.
As the Ronettes, the group recorded four singles for the Colpix/May record label and appeared live on the popular radio show Live from the Brooklyn Fox hosted by deejay Murray the K. What happened next is unclear. Some sources claim that Estelle misdialed a phone number and ended up calling producer Phil Spector. Others say that a magazine writer introduced Spector to the Ronettes when he was in New York looking for new acts.
Whichever way the story goes, Spector and the Ronettes began working together and wound up making rock history. In the Ronettes--especially Ronnie's sweet-but-tough voice--Spector found an act with more attitude and personality than usual. Typical girl groups of the 1960s were promoted as little more than pretty faces. On the Ronettes' record covers, the girls wore high bouffants, inches-thick mascara, and microminis. They also referred to the object of their affections directly in their lyrics. These were not the girls next door.
The Ronettes signed with Spector's Philles record label, and went to work in the recording studio. In July of 1963 they released the single "Be My Baby," which showcased both Spector's production talents and Ronnie's voice in the catchy "woh-oh-oh-oh" refrain. Just three months later, the song peaked at number two on the Billboard charts. The trio became an international success as well when the song reached number four on the British charts. This first single--the group's biggest hit--would become a pop classic.
The Ronettes' next single, "Baby I Love You," featured the dense orchestration and dozens of backing vocalists that would become trademarks of the Spector "wall of sound." After the wild success of "Be My Baby," "Baby I Love You" was a comparative disappointment, topping out at only 20 on the American charts. It fared better in Britain, however, where it once again reached number four.
The Ronettes then earned a spot on legendary disc jockey Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars tour and released their first full-length album, Christmas Gift. Fueled by the British success of their two singles, the girls traveled to England in February of 1964 to tour with the Rolling Stones. That same month they released "Best Part of Breaking Up," which failed to reach the top 20 on either side of the Atlantic. The Ronettes continued to record and release for two more years, but never achieved the level of success of their early singles.
Despite their lack of hit singles, the Ronettes became a landmark group. Their most popular singles include "Do I Love You?," "Walking in the Rain," and "Is This What I Get for Loving You?" Spector built his name as a producer with the group, mastering songs written by the now-legendary Brill Building songwriters. He received the only Grammy Award of his career (for Best Sound Effects) for "Walking in the Rain."
The Ronettes' final single was "I Can Hear Music," released in late 1966. Soon after, Spector closed the Philles label and the group disbanded. Ronnie Bennett had long been the focus of Spector's attention, and he wanted to produce her as a solo artist. Her debut solo single, "So Young," released under the name Veronica, was a solo effort in name only--the two remaining Ronettes sang backup. The single did not do well, and was pulled from stores before too long.
Ronnie's relationship with Spector went well beyond the recording studio--Spector left his wife for her in 1968. After they were married, the two set up house in Spector's Los Angeles mansion, but his behavior became extremely controlling. He refused to let her leave the house without his permission, nor was she allowed to make phone calls, see friends, or even read books. This effectively ended her recording career. The two separated in 1973 and later divorced. Ronnie later wrote about her turbulent marriage in her 1990 autobiography Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness.
Two singles were released during the marriage, "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered," which was released under the name The Ronettes: Featuring the Voice of Veronica, and "Try Some, Buy Some." Ronnie formed a new version of the Ronettes in the mid-1970s, and released several solo records later in the decade, neither with any success.
"Be My Baby" became a hit again in 1987 when it was included on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. The three original Ronettes sued Spector for unpaid royalties in 1990, but it wasn't until 2001 that a New York court awarded the group nearly $3 million. The verdict was later overturned on appeal.
by Brenna Sanchez
The Ronettes's Career
Group formed as the Darling Sisters in New York, NY, 1959; performed at the Peppermint Lounge, 1961; appeared in film Twist around the Clock, 1961; signed a deal with Colpix record label and released their first single, "I Want a Boy" as Ronnie & the Relatives, 1961; released regionally popular singles "I'm on the Wagon," "Silhouettes," and "Good Girls" as the Ronettes; signed with Phil Spector's Philles label and released number-two single "Be My Baby," 1963; disbanded January of 1966; sued Spector for $3 million in unpaid royalties, 1990.
- Selected discography
- Christmas Gift Philles, 1963.
- Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Philles, 1964.
- The Ronettes Colpix, 1965.
- Best of the Ronettes ABKCO, 1992.
- Spector, Ronnie, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness or My Life as a Fabulous Ronette, Harmony Books, 1990.
- "The Ronettes," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 22, 2003).
- "The Ronettes," History of Rock, http://www.history-of-rock.com/ronettes (September 22, 2003).
- "The Ronettes," VH1, http://www.VH1.com/artists/az/ronettes/bio.jhtml (September 22, 2003).
- Ronnie Spector Official Website, http://www.ronniespector.com (December 20, 2003).
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