Veronica Greenfield, the legendary singer, better known as Veronica Bennett and later Ronnie Spector, has died at the age of 78. Her cause of death was cancer.
Born in Spanish Harlem, Bennett began singing with her sister Estelle and cousin Nedra Tally at a young age as The Darling Sisters, eventually performing in high schools and sock hops in the New York area throughout the late 1950s. By 1963, the group had signed a record deal with producer Phil Spector and changed their name to The Ronettes.
The Ronettes notched five top 40 hits in the US between 1964 and 1965, including the legendary ‘Be My Baby‘. Bennett’s performance on the track went on to inspire the likes of Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Amy Winehouse, among scores of other musicians and singers. In 1965, The Ronettes toured alongside The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The Ronettes eventually broke up in 1967.
Bennett married Spector in 1968. The relationship was controlling and abusive, with Spector confining her to their Beverly Hills house and sabotaging her career. Bennett left Spector in 1972, eventually marrying her manager Jonathan Greenfield in 1982.
Bennett gained her last top five hit in America when she was featured on Eddie Money’s 1986 song ‘Take Me Home Tonight’, where Bennett sang allusions to ‘Be My Baby’. She sued Spector in 1988 for years of unpaid royalties, and before Spector’s death in 2021, he had paid over $1 million to Bennett. Bennett was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with The Ronettes in 2007.
Bennett’s influence on the ensuing generations of musicians eclipsed her association with Spector. Her vocal style and fashion were incredibly influential on the British soul revival of the late 2000s, starting with Winehouse and continuing through the likes of Adele, Duffy, Estelle, and Little Boots, to name a few. In 2020, it was announced that Zendaya would portray Bennett in an adaptation of the singer’s memoir Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, Or, My Life as a Fabulous Ronette. The film is currently in production.
Bennett is survived by her husband and five sons.