Ronnie Spector, Ronettes Lead Singer and '60s Music Icon, Dead at 78

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Ronnie Spector
David Corio/Redferns

Music icon Ronnie Spector has died. The celebrated vocalist was 78.

Spector -- who was born Veronica Bennett -- died on Wednesday after a battle with cancer, according to a statement released by her family on Spector's official website.

"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," the statement shared. "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.  

"In lieu of flowers, Ronnie requested that donations be made to your local women’s shelter or to the American Indian College Fund," the statement continued. "A celebration of Ronnie’s life and music will be announced in the future."

Spector and her sister, Estelle Bennett, along with their cousin, Nedra Talley, formed the girl group The Ronettes in 1957. The group went on to record a number of big hits in the 1960s, including "Be My Baby," "The Best Part of Breakin' Up," "Baby I Love You," and "Walking in the Rain," among others.

In 1967, The Ronettes broke up, while Spector changed her focus and embarked on a solo career. She released her first solo album, Siren, in 1980, which was followed by Unfinished Business (1987), Something's Gonna Happen (2003), The Last of the Rock Stars (2006) and English Heart (2016). She also released the EPs She Talks to Rainbows in 1999, and Best Christmas Ever in 2010.

She and her fellow Ronettes were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Spector released a memoir in 1990, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, Or, My Life as a Fabulous Ronette, detailing her life in the public eye. 

The life rights to Spector's memoir were obtained by A24 in 2020. Deadlinepreviously reported that a film about her life, and creation of The Ronettes, is currently in development with Zendaya attached to star as the legendary vocalist. Spector was also attached as a producer on the film.

On Thursday, Zendaya paid tribute to the late artist by sharing photos and a heartfelt message. 

"This news just breaks my heart. To speak about her as if she’s not with us feels strange as she is so incredibly full of life. There’s not a time I saw her without her iconic red lips and full teased hair, a true rock star through and through. Ronnie, being able to know you has been one of the greatest honors of my life," she wrote. "Thank you for sharing your life with me, I could listen to your stories for hours and hours. Thank you for your unmeasured talent, your unwavering love for performing, your strength, resilience and your grace. There is absolutely nothing that could dim the light you cast. I admire you so much and am so grateful for the bond we share. You are a magical force of greatness and the world of music will never be the same. I wish everyone got to experience you the way I did. We celebrate your beautiful life and give you all the flowers you so rightfully deserve. Rest in great power Ronnie. I hope to make you proud."

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