Singer Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes has died. She was 78 Spector had suffered from cancer. She recorded a string of pop hits in the 1960s including "Walking In The Rain" and "Be My Baby."

Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes has died at age 78

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Ronnie Spector, the lead singer of the 1960s girl group The Ronettes, has died at the age of 78 after a bout with cancer. NPR culture correspondent Anastasia Tsioulcas has this remembrance.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Ronnie Spector founded The Ronettes when she was just a teenager. She recorded her band's most famous song in 1963, when she was just 16.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BE MY BABY")

THE RONETTES: (Singing) So won't you please be my, be my baby? Be my little baby. My one and only baby. Say you'll be my darling.

TSIOULCAS: As Spector told WHYY's Fresh Air in 1987, she'd never left New York before recording "Be My Baby."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RONNIE SPECTOR: There I am on a plane going to California by myself, without the other two Ronettes, just to do the lead part. And I remember being in the ladies room at the New York airport, just singing in the bathroom. (Singing) Be my - because I don't read music or anything, and I don't play any instruments.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BE MY BABY")

THE RONETTES: (Singing) Oh, since the day I saw you, I have been waiting for you.

TSIOULCAS: You could hear an inner core of steel in her singing. That grit served her well professionally and personally, too. "Be My Baby" was just one of a string of chart hits for The Ronettes, along with "Walking In The Rain" and "Do I Love You?" Those Ronettes songs were produced by Phil Spector, who later became Ronnie's husband. But he abused her and forbade her from performing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WALKING IN THE RAIN")

THE RONETTES: (Singing) When he's near me, I'll kiss him.

TSIOULCAS: They divorced in the early 1970s, and it took Ronnie Spector several years to find her way back to the stage. She made it back with the encouragement of Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. She recorded a cover of one of Joel's songs with the E Street musicians.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAY GOODBYE TO HOLLYWOOD")

SPECTOR: (Singing) Say goodbye to Hollywood. Say goodbye, my baby.

TSIOULCAS: The Ronettes were called a girl band, but Ronnie Spector loomed large over rock culture, too, with her hair piled up heavenwards and her New York accent just as thick as her eyeliner and mascara. Her fans ranged from The Ramones to Amy Winehouse.

Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York.

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