Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ronettes Singer Estelle Bennett Dies At 67

Estelle Bennett, one of the Ronettes, died at her home in Englewood, N.J. on February 11, 2009 (cause of death is unknown at this time- she was 67). Her trio, working with producer Phil Spector, helped epitomize the famed "wall of sound" production that has become part of pop music history.

The Ronettes were formed in 1959 in the Washington Heights area of New York City by sisters Veronica (Ronnie) and Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley. Originally billed as the Darling Sisters, they won an amateur talent contest at the Apollo Theater.

The group originally signed to Colpix and recorded a number of uneventful singles, finally getting their big break when they met producer Phil Spector and were signed to his Philles Records label in 1963. Their now legendary recording of "Be My Baby" hit #2 on Billboard's pop music chart that year. The song was written by Phil Spector (with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich) with Estelle singing backing vocals. The cut is considered by many (including the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson), to be one the greatest pop songs ever recorded. Among their other hits were "Walkin' in the Rain" and "Baby I Love You." Additionally, they did a memorable version of "Sleigh Ride" that appeared on Spector's "A Christmas Gift for You" album. Their last Philles single was " I Can Hear Music" in 1966.

"They could sing all their way right through a wall of sound," Keith Richards of the Stones said as the Ronettes were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. "They didn't need anything. They touched my heart right there and then and they touch it still."

After the group's breakup, Bennett rarely made public appearances.

For nearly 15 years, the Ronettes waged a lengthy, and ultimately unsuccessful, court battle with Spector over royalties. They sued Spector in the late 1980s, saying that he had cheated them out of royalties by using their music in ways not authorized in their recording contract. A trial was held in 1998, and in 2000, the judge ordered Spector to pay $2.6 million in past royalties and interest for the use of Ronettes songs as background music in movies, videocassette recordings, and advertising.

The judgement was overturned by New York's Supreme Court in 2002, saying that their contract did not specify any payment for secondary rights.

The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 over the objections of Spector who said that he was the reason for the group's success.

Ronettes - Be My Baby

No comments: