1960s GIRL-GROUP ICON Ronnie Spector has spent decades recovering from her abusive marriage to wall-of-sound producer Phil Spector, but her self-confidence eventually began to return in the early 2000s after seeing British soul singer Amy Winehouse perform. “Amy Winehouse made me know that I mattered,” the Ronettes star tells writer Lois Wilson in the latest issue of MOJO. “When she had that hairstyle, the beehive, the eyeliner, she brought back my youth to me. When I first heard her singing, it was like a young Ronnie singing… I could relate to her in every way. I was that little lost girl.”
Ronnie was just 20 years old when The Ronettes’ first smash hit, Be My Baby, made her an international star. The song was produced and co-written by Phil Spector, then enjoying his own first flush of fame as a 23-year-old music industry upstart and creator of the Wall Of Sound. The two began dating and married in 1968, by which time her husband had effectively banned her from working and made the singer a prisoner in their home. “We didn’t do what normal couples did,” she explains. “I was brainwashed, he wouldn’t let me out of his sight. All he wanted me to do was stay at home and sing Born To Be Together to him every night.”
Since escaping their marriage in 1972, Ronnie has enjoyed several comebacks, but it wasn’t until Amy Winehouse broke through a decade or so ago that she finally felt validated as an artist. Even so, Phil Spector – currently serving a life sentence in California for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 – still exerts a negative influence of her life. “Forty years after I left him, he’s still causing trouble for me,” she says.
Read more of Ronnie Spector’s extraordinary story in MOJO 256, the Madonna issue, available in shops and online now.
Watch The Ronnettes perform Be My Baby below…
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