Thursday, September 14, 2000


Remember the Ronettes? They recorded the hits “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain” in the 1960s.

Ronnie Spector, the group’s lead singer, is cutting a new record after several decades of relative musical inactivity. Not that she’s been totally out of the music scene.

In recent years, Miss Spector recorded “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” with Bruce Springsteen and “Take Me Home Tonight” with Eddie Money. She sang on a doo-wop Christmas album and last year recorded “She Talks to Rainbows,” an extended-play recording on the Kill Rock Stars label.

Miss Spector doesn’t have a label for the album yet, but she’s confident someone will want it.

“I hope I blow everybody’s mind. If things you hope for don’t come true, you go on with your life but I feel like it’s my turn,” says Miss Spector, whose maiden name was Veronica Bennett. “I’ve waited long enough. I want to show what a rock ‘n’ roll voice looks like, sounds like and is like. I’m 57, and I’m still singing in the same keys.”

On the day of the interview, Miss Spector sounds dynamic, singing in a recording studio with a seven-piece band and shaking her hips to the rock ‘n’ roll beat.

The Ronettes cut their first record in 1961. Record producer Phil Spector signed them to Phillies Records in 1963 and produced their hits. He married Ronnie in 1968, then kept her locked in their Beverly Hills mansion. The couple divorced in 1974.

In 1988, Miss Spector sued her ex-husband for the Ronettes’ record royalties. A judge this year awarded $2.6 million to the Ronettes, but expects Mr. Spector to appeal.

These days, Miss Spector performs as part of oldies shows in cities across the nation. While she’s in a town to perform in an oldies show, she often sings in clubs frequented by young people.

Q: Do you like doing oldies shows?

A: Yes. Dion, Little Anthony, Frankie Valli, the Four Tops, I adore those voices. If I had a No. 1 with this new record and they invited me, I would still do them. You get people who remember you. I’m not erased. I’m not gone.

Q: Did you remarry?

A: Yes. I went out with Jonathan Greenfield for three years before we married. He manages me. Our boys, Jason and Austin, are 16 and 17. I have wonderful in-laws, sister-in-law, two brothers-in-law. I wanted to be a regular wife and mom. I have everything now I wanted 30 years ago. It’s never too late; I guess that saying is true.

Q: How do you feel when you perform?

A: I feel so free. Now I’m available to do concerts; I’m not so busy raising two boys. Even at rehearsals, I get so excited. I love it. Even a week after a show, I’m still going, “doo-wah, doo-wah.”

Q: Have you changed your singing style?

A: I stick with the style people heard on the radio. I never get tired of “Be My Baby,” and Brian Wilson wrote “Don’t Worry Baby” for me as a follow-up to that. My ex wouldn’t let me sing it because he didn’t own the publishing [rights]. But I got to do it 30 years later. And I still have to be spontaneous. We put our hair up, and if it fell down, fine. We did natural stuff. We wanted to be sexy. The guys wanted to go to bed with us, and the girls wanted to be like us. Hearing them both screaming made you more sexy up there.

Q: Do you stay in touch with old friends?

A: I’ve been knowing Keith Richards forever, since the Stones opened for us in England in 1963. He came over to play on a couple of songs for the new album. It’s wonderful to have good friends backing me up. They all know how long I’ve been waiting to have my turn. Keith said, “They thought we were going to die, Ronnie, and here we are.”

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