The story of icon Ronnie Spector couldn’t be told without NJ
Last week the world lost Ronnie Spector at the age of 78 after a battle with cancer.
In a music career spanning nearly 60 years, Spector's voice became synonymous with the early '60s girl group era. As lead vocalist on songs like "Be My Baby" and "Baby, I Love You," her unique singing style entertained the masses and inspired legendary musicians for decades to come.
Artists from Bruce Springsteen to Amy Winehouse look up to Ronnie Spector as an icon. Just look at how the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson reacted when he first met her.
"The biggest thrill of my whole life," said Brian Wilson.
Despite being born and raised in Manhattan, Ronnie Spector became an adopted member of the Asbury Park music scene for a time. It happened in a roundabout way, and it involved former Beatle John Lennon.
As Steve Trevelise points out in his remembrance of the icon, Spector laid it all out in a 2017 interview with the Asbury Park Press.
“I am walking down the street in New York City, mid-'70s and I hear this voice yell out, 'Hey Ronnie, Ronnie Ronette,' so I turn around and it’s John Lennon."
Lennon ended up introducing her to his engineer, Jimmy Iovine, who had just worked on Bruce Springsteen's landmark album "Born To Run."
Spector goes on: “That night, Jimmy invited me down to the Record Plant where he was working with a band from Jersey. When I walked into the studio, I met Little Steven (Van Zandt), who was producing Southside Johnny, and Springsteen was there, too, and right on spot Bruce re-wrote a song for me and Johnny to sing as a duet, 'You Mean So Much to Me Baby.'"
As time went on, Spector found a home-away-from-home along the Jersey Shore. You can read the full Asbury Park Press interview here.
Here's Ronnie Spector joining Southside Johnny on "You Mean So Much to Me Baby:"
Around this same time, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band were in a state of flux as well. Springsteen was in the midst of a legal battle with his ex-manager. The dispute got so heated Springsteen was legally barred from the recording studio. As a result, the E Street Band had to figure out how to pay their bills.
Then-record exec Steve Popovich had an idea to help the band keep the lights on: Have Ronnie Spector act as the temporary frontwoman of the E Street Band.
While this era is short-lived, we did get treated to an unbelievable cover. Ronnie Spector & The E Street Band covered Billy Joel's "Say Goodbye to Hollywood." It's one of the coolest full-circle moments in music history because Billy Joel wrote the song as a tribute to Ronnie Spector’s style. This was the result:
Ronnie Spector will be sorely missed, but her presence and influence will always be felt.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 producer, writer, and host Joe Votruba. Any opinions expressed are his own.