Musical producer

Ronnie Spector at the BBC: The singer’s life from marriage to record producer later convicted of murder to a quiet life at home with the manager-turned-husband and their two children

Ronnie Spector, best known as the lead singer of The Ronnettes, has had a turbulent personal life that has seen her go through an abusive relationship with ex-husband Phil Spector, including threatening to kill her. Ronnie was known professionally by her former married name, but she was born Veronica Yvette Bennett in Harlem, New York in 1943.

Ronnie died at her home in Danbury on January 12, 2022 aged 78 after being diagnosed with cancer. The BBC is broadcasting a commemorative program about the life and career of former Ronnette lead singer and Rock N Roll pioneer. The show will also contain some of Ronnie’s most memorable performances.

Ronnie’s musical career spanned over six decades and she continued to create music as a solo artist after the Ronnettes broke up. Her most famous tracks include Be My Baby and Walkin in the Rain, she was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Ronnettes in 2007.

The 60s icon’s life was not without its tribulations and her relationship with Phil Spencer was responsible for many of Ronnie’s darkest moments. The couple began an affair shortly after signing to Phil’s record label in 1963, although Ronnie was unaware that Phil was married at the start of their relationship.

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Ronnie’s life was full of tribulations

Ronnie was even apprehended once by detectives for prostitution after leaving Phil’s room at the Delmonico Hotel in New York.

Phil was able to get Ronnie out of the situation by threatening the hotel, but that would be the start of many unsatisfying situations Ronnie would find himself in because of the music producer.

In his 1990 memoir Be My Baby, Ronnie claimed that after they married in 1968, Phil subjected her to years of psychological torment and sabotaged her career by banning her from performing. She also said he surrounded their house with barbed wire to prevent her from leaving.

The couple adopted son Donte in 1969 and two years later also adopted twins Louis and Gary. The family lives in Beverly Hills and the couple’s life together was far from the picture of a perfect family.

The Ronettes
Ronnie was the lead singer of the American trio Ronnettes alongside his cousin Nedra Talley and older sister Estelle Bennett

Ronnie said Phil set up a golden coffin with a glass top in the basement of their home which he threatened to use to display his corpse if she ever left.

In 1972, Ronnie was able to flee Phil and the Beverly Hills mansion, with the help of his mother, through a broken window. She left without any of her personal effects.

Under Phil’s torment, Ronnie started drinking and she attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to escape from the house she was effectively trapped in.

Phil Spector
Ronnie’s ex-husband Phil Spector was convicted of murder in 2009

Her divorce from Phil resulted in the forfeiture of all her future recording earnings and she later testified that he pointed a gun at her, threatening to kill her unless she ceded custody of the children to him.

Despite the traumatic relationship and her desire to escape Phil completely, Ronnie kept the family name in a professional capacity as a way to return to her music career.

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More than 15 years later, Ronnie and the rest of the Ronettes – older sister Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley – sued Phil for $10 million in damages and although it took a decade, Ronnie finally won. $1 million in royalties.

Phil Spector was convicted of murdering American actress and model Lana Clarkson in 2009, six years after her death and he was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison, where he died in 2021.

A decade after his escape from Phil Spector, Ronnie married his manager Jonathan Greenfield and the couple had two sons and lived together in Danbury, Conneticut.

Ronnie died in her Danbury home after more than four decades with her manager-turned-husband Jonathan.

BBC’s Ronnie Spector will be on BBC Two on Saturday 12 January at 8.30pm.

Trainee journalist – LGBT+ specialist. Previously worked for Daily Star, The Sun, Brixton Blog and South West Londoner.

Three stories written this month include an in-depth interview with LGBTQ+ activist Peter Tatchell ahead of the 50th anniversary of UK Gay Pride, an interview with a former lieutenant commander who had to keep his sexuality a secret in the armed forces for 20 years who lost his partner to AIDS two days before leaving the Navy and a conversation with the founder of The Gay Men’s Dance Company which offers vocational training, pole dancing and a dance class in heels.

You have a story? You can reach me at [email protected] or DM me on Twitter @mattlspivey.