August 10, 2010
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RONNIE SPECTOR (born Veronica Bennett, 1943), her sister Estelle, and their cousin Nedra Tally were a naturally occurring girlgroup: aggressive, fashionable, racially ambiguous, reared in musical homes in the multiracial Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. Phil Spector must have felt the heavenly nimbus of destiny descend upon him when he first heard The Ronettes sing. “So young,” Ronnie quavered on an indifferent pre-Philles release. “Can’t marry no one”; but her voice didn’t sound young at all. It throbbed with friction and experience, and it was majestic. Spector had found in Bennett a singer who could break through the Xanadu of instrumentation he would build around her in his Gold Star Studios echo chamber. He married her, too — a tale for another day — but first he produced a string of pop masterpieces: “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You,” “Walking in the Rain,” and on and on, each one a little storm building inexorably, orgiastically to the fade. They were near-perfect records that would have deflated without Ronnie’s lead vocals, and they’ve lived on. The boygroup records that came a decade later emulated her jagged phrasing, defiance, and raw, earnest emotion.
ALSO BORN THIS DATE: Norma Shearer.
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