Ronnie Spector dead at 78: Inside The Ronettes singer's horrifying life with ex Phil Spector
Icon of the '60s was married to Phil Spector, a record producer who was convicted of murder in 2009, after an initial hung verdict
1960s music icon Ronnie Spector died on January 12, 2022, it has been confirmed. The leader of The Ronettes was 78 when she succumbed to cancer, dying "in the arms of her husband, Jonathan." She is survived by her husband and her five children - Donte Phillip Spector, Gary Phillip Spector, Louis Phillip Spector, Jason Charles Greenfield, and Austin Drew Greenfield.
The first three though were not with Jonathan Greenfield, who is Ronnie's second husband. Rather, they were born from her marriage to infamous record producer Phil Spector, who among other things is noted for his 2008 conviction for murder. But before that, he was widely regarded in the music industry and linked to some of the biggest names of his time like John Lennon and George Harrison.
Spector is also widely known for his mistreatment of Ronnie, with their relationship often described by the media as a "harbinger of the violence to come." Ronnie herself detailed the painful time she had with Spector in her 1990 memoir 'Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness'.
Who is Phil Spector?
Born in The Bronx, Spector moved out west as a teen and began his musical journey in Los Angeles as a founding member of the Teddy Bears. Then at 21, he became the youngest ever US label owner when he founded Philles Records after being cheated of $17,000 from his first record. In 1960, the record hit gold with the Crystals, and in 1961, Spector bought out partner Lester Sill to go at it solo.
A decade later, Spector produced The Beatles' 'Let It Be', and albums for Lennon, Leonard Cohen, and Harrison as well. But success got to him, and by the end of the 70s, Spector had largely withdrawn from public life and began consuming drugs. In just two decades, he singlehandedly transformed the music industry, leading to inductions in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame.
But instead of quietly fading away, Spector returned to the public in a most dramatic fashion. In 2003, he shot actress Lana Clarkson at his California mansion. Four years later, he was tried for murder, with the trial being declared a mistrial after a hung jury. In 2008, a retrial took place and this time he was found guilty. In 2019 he was jailed for 19 years to life over the murder and has remained there since, despite several appeal attempts. He died in January 2021, after being diagnosed with Covid-19 and being put on a ventilator in a hospital.
Marriage to Ronnie Spector
Spector first met Ronnie in 1962, when her band The Ronettes signed with his record company. In 1968, the duo got married and she took his name professionally. However, things didn't work out and Ronnie was subjected to emotional and physical abuse and was confined to Spector's Beverly Hills home for years. "I can only say that when I left in the early ’70s, I knew that if I didn’t leave at that time, I was going to die there," she wrote in her memoir, dubbing Spector as "vindictive" and "violent".
In 1972, she ran away with help from her mother and got divorced in 1974. The agreement saw Ronnie lose custody of their three children, as well as access to future earnings from the label. Decades later, the three children would also go on to open up about being abused by Spector, with Phil describing their relationship as a "thin line between love and hate." As for Ronnie, she eventually moved on and found love in Greenfield, who remained with her to the very end.
Tributes have now begun to pour in for Ronnie on social media. "She was the epitome of cool. One of the first black girls of rock n roll. We can only aspire to be like her. Rest In Power, Ronnie Spector. You were everything," one person mourned. Another said, "RIP Ronnie Spector, one of the most impossibly cool women in all of rock n roll. Her work with The Ronettes was just unimpeachably perfect." One user tweeted, "Very sad to hear that the sensational and unique Ronnie Spector has left this world. She sang on some of the most magical pop tracks ever made."
She was the epitome of cool. One of the first black girls of rock n roll. We can only aspire to be like her. Rest In Power, Ronnie Spector. You were everything. pic.twitter.com/rgxy75nWre— bianca xunise (@biancaxunise) January 12, 2022
RIP Ronnie Spector, one of the most impossibly cool women in all of rock n roll. Her work with The Ronettes was just unimpeachably perfect. pic.twitter.com/D61Jc1gjsH— Aaronposting (@ambientambien) January 12, 2022
Very sad to hear that the sensational and unique Ronnie Spector has left this world. She sang on some of the most magical pop tracks ever made. 🖤 pic.twitter.com/n7CW8atZBU— Duglas T Stewart (@DuglasTStewart) January 12, 2022
"Rest In Peace. Ronnie Spector, you have always inspired me and many others. The true meaning of too perfect for this world was you," one person said. Another noted, "RIP to the original bad girl of rock n roll Ronnie Spector. You’ve endlessly inspired us to Hell and back with your legendary voice (and beehive.) Gutted. Life wouldn’t be the same without your music. We love you Ronnie."
Rest In Peace. Ronnie Spector, you have always inspired me and many others. The true meaning of too perfect for this world was you. pic.twitter.com/mQvWaYGdtq— amy (@SHRIMPTONSLOVE) January 12, 2022
RIP to the original bad girl of rock n roll Ronnie Spector. You’ve endlessly inspired us to Hell and back with your legendary voice (and beehive.) Gutted. Life wouldn’t be the same without your music. We love you Ronnie 💔 pic.twitter.com/hg0C9ermlf— ☨ Twin Temple ☨ (@TwinTemple) January 12, 2022