Ronnie Spector died this week at the age of 78 after a short battle with cancer, passing away in the arms of her husband/manager, Jonathan Greenfield. They’d been married for 40 years.
There are plenty of obituaries out there, but I’d like to honour her memory by offering the top ten reasons why she is the most badass female pop singer of all time.
- When she, her sister Estelle, and cousin Nedra in 1957, they invented the whole girl group thing, one of the most influential sounds in the history of rock’n’roll.
- Ronnie was from Spanish Harlem in New York and let her accent come through, giving people around the world a taste of that city’s urban culture. There was a sense of “bad girl with a heart of gold” feel to her sound, which lent a hitherto unheard level of authenticity to her vocals.
- Once the Ronettes hit big in the early 60s, everyone wanted to copy that sound. Motown was especially keen to capture the magic of The Ronettes–and look how that turned out?
- Ronnie and the group had an impact on The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Both bands were besotted with songs like “Be My Baby” (1963), “Baby I Love You” (also 1963), and “Walkin’ in the Rain” (1964). She went on dates with George Harrison (he later wrote songs for her), opened for The Beatles on their 1966 tour, and often received flowers from Keith Richards (The Ronettes toured with The Stones in 1964).
- Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys was a fan, adapting some of what he heard from The Ronettes for his songs.
- In the 70s, she started hanging out with the punks at CBGB. Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, and especially The Ramones worshipped her and her music. In fact, the Ramones’ sound is early 60s girl group music played at a million miles an hour and at the volume of a jet engine. Gawd, she even appeared on a Misfits album. THE F**KING MISFITS!
- David Bowie loved her. He even covered one of her songs.
- She survived a horribly abusive marriage to Phil Spector (1968-72). Some of those experiences were detailed in a memoir entitled Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness. She was drawing attention to #MeToo issues decades ago. Plus she successfully sued Spector for US$15 million in royalties.
- No Ronnie Spector, no Amy Winehouse, no Karen O.
- That video with Eddie Money in 1989.