A selection of performances by the lead singer of the Sixties all-girl group, The Ronettes, will grace screens tonight on BBC Two. Known for the hits ‘Be My Baby‘ and ‘Walking in the Rain’, the journey will take viewers through the archives to see and hear Ronnie, in her own words, discussing her life and career through the years. A special performance from Later with Jools Holland and the The Old Grey Whistle Test will be shown, as will her stint on the Pair Stage at Glastonbury Festival in 2016.
While Ronnie achieved great success, parts of her life and career were blighted by tragedy.
Much of this came as a result of her relationship with Phil Spector, the influential music producer, songwriter and entrepreneur.
Ronnie formed a singing group with her elder sister, Estelle Bennett, and their cousin, Nedra Talley in the late Fifties, and signed to Phil’s record label in 1963.
He went on to produce the majority of their recording output, holding almost total control and influence over many of the artists he signed.
Ronnie and Phil began having an affair shortly after he recruited The Ronettes, with Ronnie apparently unaware that he was already married.
He divorced Annette Merar, lead vocalist of the Spectors Three, a Sixties pop trio formed and produced by him, and married Ronnie two years later.
It was almost straight after this that Ronnie temporarily retired from performing, the singer later revealing in her 1990 autobiography Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness that she had little freedom during their relationship.
In the book, she recalled the time when she was forced to escape their home barefoot and with the help of her mother in 1972.
Dodai Stewart, a deputy editor at the publication, previously recalled a conversation with Ronnie.
He explained: “She said that Phil put a gold coffin with a glass top in their basement, promising that he would kill her and display her corpse if she ever left him.
“She escaped the mansion barefoot and without any belongings.”
When the couple divorced in 1974, Ronnie said: ”I knew if I didn’t leave at that time, I was going to die there.’
In the Eighties, The Ronettes sued Phil, claiming he had only given them $15,000 (£36,000 adjusted for inflation) for their entire royalties.
At the trial, which spanned 15 years, Ronnie said her former husband had stifled her singing career and threatened her into signing a 1974 divorce settlement that forfeited all future record profits.
In 1988, The Ronettes sued Phil for $10million (£16million adjusted for inflation) in damages, rescission of the contract, the return of the masters, and recoupment of money received from the sale of The Ronettes masters.
It took ten years for the case to make it to trial, and after a prolonged legal battle, Phil was ordered to pay Ronnie over $1million (£1.2million adjusted for inflation) in royalties.
Phil was later sent to prison in 2009 for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, who he had met hours earlier.
He claimed that she had died by suicide at his mansion in California, saying it was “accidental suicide’ and that she “kissed the gun”.
The court found that he had shot her in the mouth, and his driver testified that he told him: “I think I just shot her.”
He died of COVID-19 in prison in January 2021, aged 81.
Ronnie remarried in 1982, tying the knot with her Jonathan Greenfield, whom she had two sons with.
She died from cancer in her home on January 12, 2022, aged 78.
‘Ronnie Spector at the BBC’ airs at 8:30pm on BBC Two.