American singer Ronnie Spector, leader of the group Les Ronettes and voice of the hit “Be My Baby”, died Wednesday at the age of 78, her family announced. “Our beloved angel, Ronnie, has peacefully left this world today after a brief battle with cancer,” his relatives said in a statement. “Ronnie has lived his life with a sparkle in his eye, a spirited demeanor, a fierce sense of humor and a smile on his face,” added his family.

Ronnie Spector was born Veronica Greenfield on August 10, 1943, in New York City, to an African-American and Native American mother and father of Irish descent, in the neighborhood of Spanish Harlem. She had formed the Ronettes with her sister, Estelle Bennett and her cousin Nedra Talley.

The band rose to prominence in the New York City area with their soulful love songs before signing in 1963 with legendary producer Phil Spector, soon to be husband of Ronnie. With their seductive eyes, XXL hairstyle and skirts above the knees, the Ronettes unrolled a series of hits in the early 60s, including “Baby, I love you”, “(The Best Part of) Breakin Up” , or “Be My Baby,” which was inducted into the 1999 Grammy Hall of Fame.

The song, emblematic of Phil Spector’s symphonic production style known as “Wall of Sound”, has been used as a soundtrack in films like “Mean Streets” by Martin Scorsese (1973) or “Dirty Dancing” ( 1987).

Along with the Supremes, the Ronettes were one of the most popular groups of the time, and the only girl group to go on tour with the Beatles, opening their act in 1966. When the trio was inducted at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards remembered opening their act in the 1960s. “They didn’t need anything. They touched my heart at that moment and they still touch it, ”he said.

The Ronettes separated in 1967 and the following year Ronnie married Phil Spector, known to have been one of the greatest rock’n’roll producers in history, but jailed for murder in 2009. The couple divorced in 1974 and Ronnie Spector recounted in an autobiography the years of suffering and abuse she suffered with her former husband.

After the Ronettes, Ronnie Spector continued a solo career, punctuated by several collaborations with artists such as Eddie Money and the Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. His 2006 album, “The Last of the Rock Stars,” included collaborations with Keith Richards and Patti Smith.

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