This week, Ira Sternberg spoke with Ronnie Spector.
Ronnie Spector, the former lead singer of the Ronettes, who will bring her Christmas-themed show to The Orleans Showroom Dec. 19-20, was born and raised in Spanish Harlem. She formed the Ronettes while in her teens and released her first records in 1961 on the Colpix label.
The Ronettes were also professional singers and dancers at New York’s Peppermint Lounge. There they were discovered by legendary disc jockey “Murray the K” (Murray Kaufman), who promptly hired them as dancers for his Brooklyn Fox Theater rock and roll revues.
Beginning in 1963, Spector—as lead singer of the ultimate girl group, The Ronettes—recorded a long string of classic pop hits: powerful, poignant teen anthems like the Grammy Award-winning “Walking in the Rain,” “Do I Love You,” “Baby I Love You,” “The Best Part of Breaking Up,” “I Can Hear Music,” and the international Number One smash “Be My Baby.”
As the Number One pop group in England, Spector and the Ronettes headlined over acts like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds. The Beatles personally requested that the Ronettes join their final U.S. tour in August 1966; later that year, at Basin Street East, a talented young comedian named Richard Pryor was the opening act for the Ronettes’ final live performance.
In 1989, Spector took time off to write the story of her life and music. “Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness (Crown, 1990)” was an international bestseller; a revised and updated mass-market paperback was published in June 2004.
In June 2000, after a 15-year legal battle, she won a landmark decision in the New York State courts. The ruling eased the way for veteran artists of the Fifties and Sixties to collect past-due royalties on their old recordings.
Spector’s CD, “The Last of the Rock Stars,” released 2009, marked the first time she was ever in full control of her material, arrangements, and production. The supporting cast included Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), members of The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, Patti Smith, and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.
In the summer of 2012, Spector debuted her biographical one-woman multi–media show “Beyond the Beehive” in New York City. Following several more sold-out shows, she took “Beyond the Beehive” to London for its premier UK performance at Queen Elizabeth Hall on March 9, 2014. “Ronnie Spector’s Beyond The Beehive shines like a polished diamond!” declared The Independent (UK) in their five-star review.