Veronica Bennett, her sister Estelle Bennett Vann and their cousin Nedra Talley Ross debuted in Billboard’s Top 40 in 1963 with their biggest hit “Be My Baby,” on Phil Spector’s Philles label. Four more Top 40 hits followed through the end of the following year, “Baby, I Love You,” “(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up,” “Do I Love You?” and “Walking in the Rain.”
In 1968, Veronica Bennett, nicknamed Ronnie, married Phil Spector. In 1971, while Phil Spector was working with Apple Records, Ronnie Spector recorded the Apple single “Try Some, By Some,” written by George Harrison, a song left over from his All Things Must Pass triple album, and eventually included on his 1973 Living in the Material World album. In 1974, the Spectors divorced.
In the middle of the decade, Ronnie Spector recorded a version of Billy Joel’s composition “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” on Steve Popovich’s Cleveland International Records label. In his 2020 Goldmine interview, Steve Popovich Jr. said, “That was the first Cleveland International single. My dad and Steven Van Zandt were best friends for forty something years. Before the single came out, Steven called my dad and told him that the E Street Band were having some financial difficulties, going through some legal issues at that time and wanted to know if there was something that he could do. The next day my dad called Steven and said, ‘I’ve got this song written by Billy Joel with a Phil Spector girl group sound that would be perfect for a combination of Ronnie Spector and The E Street Band.’ Steven had already produced Ronnie as a guest on Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes’ first album. My dad gave the band double or triple scale, which at the time was like a month or two’s salary which kept them going in a very important and crucial time in their career. The flip side, ‘Baby Please Don’t Go,’ which Steven wrote, is absolutely beautiful. We are very proud of the Cleveland Rocks compilation, which begins with Ronnie Spector and The E Street Band, and we have now reissued it on vinyl.”
Ronnie Spector and The E Street Band
Flip side: Baby Please Don’t Go
A side: Say Goodbye to Hollywood
Cleveland International 8-50374
In the middle of the following decade, Ronnie Spector was heard on Eddie Money’s highest charting single, “Take Me Home Tonight,” which reached No. 4. In his 2018 Goldmine interview, Eddie Money said, “Ronnie wasn’t easy to track down in the 1980s. The Ronettes disbanded. She and Phil Spector were divorced and then she remarried. She and her husband Jonathan live in Connecticut. Ronnie answered the phone and I told her my name and asked if she knew who I was. She said ‘yes’ and that she loved my music, so that was good. I told her about ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ and the line, ‘Just like Ronnie sang, ‘Be my little baby,’’ and then I heard the clanging of glasses. I asked her what that was. She was doing the dishes. She had given up music, but fortunately she agreed to sing the line on the song, got the music bug back, and has been recording and touring ever since.”
At the end of the decade, “Be My Baby” experienced resurgence through its placement in the film Dirty Dancing and its soundtrack. In her 2011 Goldmine interview Spector was asked if she ever tired of singing that song. She replied, “Never! I never get tired of it. And that is amazing, because a lot of performers I’ve spoken with, they go, ‘Oh, I’m so tired of singing my hit song.’ And I say, ‘Hey, you should be happy you have that song to sing and that it was a hit!’ I’m the type of person, I have to sing my hits. When I’ve gone to see other performers that don’t sing their hits, ooh, I’m devastated, you know? So, I’ve learned my lesson by seeing other people. I’ve always sung my hits.”
In 1963, in addition to “Be My Baby” being in the Top 40, that holiday season the album A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records was released, which included The Ronettes’ versions of “Frosty the Snowman,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and a song that brought the trio back to the Billboard chart this past holiday season for the first time in over 50 years, “Sleigh Ride.” Spector’s most recent recording was her 2016 British Invasion tribute album English Heart. Ronnie Spector passed away January 12 at age 78.
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