Veronica Yvette Bennett (born August 10, 1943), better known by her stage name Ronnie Spector, is an American singer and ex-wife of producer Phil Spector. Spector was lead singer of the R&B/Pop vocal girl group, the Ronettes, which had a string of hits during the early to mid–1960s, and she has sung with multiple other high profile acts. Spector has been called the original "bad girl of rock and roll".
Spector was born Veronica Yvette Bennett in New York City, the daughter of an African-American/Cherokee mother and Irish father. She and her sister, Estelle Bennett (1941–2009), were encouraged to sing by their large family, as was their cousin, Nedra Talley. All three women later became members of the Darling Sisters, later known as the Ronettes.
The Ronettes were a popular live attraction around the greater New York area in the early 1960s. Looking for a recording contract, they initially were signed to Colpix Records and produced by Stu Phillips.
After releasing a few singles on Colpix without success, they were signed by Phil Spector to Philles Records. Their relationship with Spector brought chart success with "Be My Baby", "Baby, I Love You", "The Best Part of Breakin' Up", "Do I Love You?", and "Walking in the Rain". The group had two top 100 hits in 1965: "Born to Be Together" and "Is This What I Get for Loving You?" The group broke up in early 1967, following a European concert tour that included their appearance at the Moonlight Lounge, in Gelnhausen, Germany, where they entertained American military personnel. The Ronettes were never to reunite until their 2007 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The group's last single, "I Can Hear Music", on the Philles Records label (# 133), was released in the fall of 1966. That song was not produced by Phil Spector, who used to hire the "Wrecking Crew", Los Angeles area musicians, to provide Wall of Sound orchestral pop symphony backups for the group, at the Gold Star Recording Studio in Hollywood. Instead, "I Can Hear Music" was produced by songwriter/producer Jeff Barry, who used only a small band when he recorded the trio in a New York City recording studio. Phil stopped producing new Ronettes records and kept many of the group's numerous unreleased songs in the vault for years.
1966 was also the year when Phil Spector went into a brief seclusion. Thereafter, a one-off single, "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered," sung by Ronnie but credited to "The Ronettes Featuring the Voice of Veronica," appeared in 1969 on Herb Alpert's A&M Records label, with "Oh I Love You", an old Ronettes B-side, as the flip. Only Ronnie's voice was used for the lead and background vocals on "You Came, You Saw, You Conquered". Ronnie's recording and performing career had begun its long hiatus.
In February 1971, during Phil Spector's tenure as head of A&R at Apple Records, Spector recorded the single "Try Some, Buy Some/Tandoori Chicken" at Abbey Road Studios, released as Apple 33 in the UK and Apple 1832 in the US. The A-side was written by George Harrison, and produced by both him and Spector. Although the single was not a big hit, its backing track was used two years later for Harrison's own version of the song, on his chart-topping Living in the Material World album. "Try Some, Buy Some" had another lasting influence when John Lennon recorded "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" later the same year and asked Spector (co-producing again) to reproduce the mandolin-laden Wall of Sound he had created for Spector's single. Lennon liked the rockabilly B-side too; he sang it at his birthday party in New York in October 1971 (a recording of which has appeared on bootlegs). Spector recorded other Harrison songs during those London sessions − including "You" and "When Every Song Is Sung" − but her versions were never released, even though a full album had been planned originally.
In the early to mid-1970s, Spector briefly reformed the Ronettes (as Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes) with two new members (Chip Fields Hurd, the mother of actress Kim Fields, and Diane Linton). In her book, Spector recounted several abortive attempts to recapture mainstream success throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, during which time she was widely perceived as an oldies act. Billy Joel's hit "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" (1976) was inspired by Ronnie. Ronnie herself covered it in 1977 backed by Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.
In 1976, Ronnie sang a duet with Southside Johnny on the recording "You Mean So Much To Me", penned by Southside's longtime friend Bruce Springsteen and produced by Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band. This was the final track on the Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes' debut album I Don't Want to Go Home. She also made appearances with the band the following year.
Ronnie recorded her first solo album in 1980, produced by Genya Ravan, which was a prelude to her work with Joey Ramone in the late 1990s.
In 1983, Spector and the other Ronettes sued Phil Spector for non-payment of royalties. They eventually won a $3 million judgement in 2003 and established the terms of the group's 1963 contract as binding.
In 1986, Spector enjoyed a resurgence to popular radio airplay as the featured vocalist on Eddie Money's Top 5 hit, "Take Me Home Tonight", in which she answers Money's chorus lyric, "just like Ronnie sang", with, "be my little baby". The song's music video was one of the top videos of the year and in heavy rotation on MTV. During this period, she also recorded the song "Tonight You're Mine, Baby" (from the film Just One of the Guys).
In 1988, Spector began performing at the Ronnie Spector's Christmas Party, a seasonal staple at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City. In 1999, she released the album, She Talks to Rainbows, which featured a few covers of older songs. Joey Ramone acted as producer and appeared on stage with her to promote the record.
In 2003, she provided backing vocals for The Misfits' album, Project 1950, on the songs "This Magic Moment" and "You Belong to Me."
In 2004, Spector and the Ronettes were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Spector provided guest vocals on the track "Ode to LA", on The Raveonettes' album Pretty in Black (2005). Spector's album, Last of the Rock Stars (2009), was released by Bad Girl Sounds and featured contributions from members of The Raconteurs, Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Raveonettes, Patti Smith, and Keith Richards. Spector herself co-produced two of the songs. A Christmas EP, Ronnie Spector's Best Christmas Ever, was released on Bad Girl Sounds in November 2010, featuring five new Christmas songs.
In 2011, after the death of Amy Winehouse, Ronnie Spector released her version of Winehouse's single "Back to Black" (2006) as a tribute and for the benefit of the Daytop Village addiction treatment centers. She has also performed this song as part of her live act: for example, during her UK tour in 2015.
In 2016, she released, through 429 Records, English Heart, her first album of new material in a decade. The album features her versions of songs of the British Invasion by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Bee Gees, and others produced by Scott Jacoby. English Heart peaked at #6 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart.
Ronnie Spector was married to Phil Spector from 1968 to 1974 and took his name professionally. They adopted three children: Donté, Louis, and Gary Phillip. Ronnie Spector lives in the area of Danbury, Connecticut with her second husband, Jonathan Greenfield (whom she married in 1982), and their two sons, Austin Drew and Jason Charles.