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Ronnie Spector became famous in the 1960s as the lead singer of the Ronettes, whose hits include "Be My Baby" and "Walking in the Rain."
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Born in New York City in 1943, singer Ronnie Spector formed The Ronettes in 1961. The group signed with record producer Phil Spector and produced a number of 1960s hits, including "Be My Baby" and "Walking in the Rain." Ronnie married Phil in 1968, but the tumultuous marriage ended six years later.
Singer Ronnie Spector was born Veronica Bennett in New York City on August 10, 1943. She grew up in Spanish Harlem with her mother, father and younger sister, Estelle. The daughter of an Irish father and a mother of African-American and Cherokee descent, Spector struggled as a child to reconcile both sides of her mixed ethnic heritage, a rarity for the time period. Her father, Louis, left the family when Spector and her sister were still very young. Eventually, her exotic features, distinct voice and striking beauty would later prove to be a boon for her music career.
As a young child, Spector loved to perform, often arranging the coffee table and chairs in her parents' living room into a makeshift auditorium, climbing atop the table to sing. Spector, Estelle, and their cousin Nedra Talley Ross formed a singing group called "The Rondettes," a hybrid of their three names, and began performing small gigs and local shows around New York, most notably at The Apollo Theater, where they gained some attention as teenagers.
By 1961, the trio had renamed themselves "The Ronettes" and signed with Colpix Records, releasing their first double-sided singles: "I Want a Boy"/"What's So Sweet About Sweet Sixteen" and "I'm Gonna Quit While I'm Ahead"/"My Guiding Angel." They found little success with Colpix, however, and continued to perform in clubs as dancers, eventually getting a steady gig dancing at the Peppermint Lounge on 46th Street. They were still underage and took to stuffing their bras and wearing heavy makeup in order to look older. There they were discovered by DJ Murray the K, who booked them to perform weekly at his Brooklyn Fox Theater's Rock 'n' Roll Revue.
By 1963, the girls had still not found much success with Colpix and made a bold move: They cold-called the legendary producer Phil Spector at Mirasound Studios; struck by their moxie, he agreed to audition them. Phil Spector was well known by that time for his "wall of sound" technique, an overdubbing vocal/orchestral effect that he used throughout the 1960s to produce some of the greatest rock hits of the decade for bands such as The Righteous Brothers, Tina Turner and The Beatles. As Ronnie Spector later recalled, her voice was perfect for this technique because of its distinct sound: "Phil won the lottery when he met me, because I had a perfect voice. It wasn't a black voice; it wasn't a white voice. It was just a great voice. His whole life has been me."
Phil signed the Ronettes immediately and became their sole manager and producer, writing singles for them throughout the 1960s, such as the megahit "Be My Baby" as well as "Baby I Love You," "I Wonder," "The Best Part of Breaking Up" and "Walking in the Rain." By 1964, the Ronettes were traveling to England under Phil Spector's careful watch, where they befriended and performed with two all-male rock groups who would define the decade: The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
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