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Estelle Bennett 1941-2009

 

 


Country : Englewood, New Jersey
Profession : Singer
Date of birth : 1941-07-22
Date of death : 2009-02-11
Cause of Death : Colon cancer

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5430976_wenn1183095

 

Estelle Bennett, (July 22, 1941 – February 11, 2009) was a member of the girl group The Ronettes, along with her sister Veronica Ronnie Spector (the 'Ronnie' of the band's name) and cousin Nedra Talley. After the Ronettes' 1966 break-up, she recorded a single for Laurie Records, "The Year 2000/The Naked Boy". She then quit the music business and had rarely been seen since. She married the group's road manager Joe Dong, and they had a daughter, Toyin.

In 2007, when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she refused to perform with them, and spoke only a brief two sentences during her acceptance speech, "I would just like to say, thank you very much for giving us this award. I'm Estelle of the Ronettes, thank you."

She died at her home in Englewood, New Jersey aged 67. According to her sister Ronnie's site, Bennett died of colon cancer on February 11. A week after her death it was revealed, in an article in The New York Times, that Bennett had suffered from mental illness in the years after the Ronettes break up and that later on she had been homeless. Fellow Ronette Nedra Talley Ross and Bennett's daughter were interviewed for the article, though Bennett's sister Ronnie chose not to be interviewed

THE GROUP

The Ronettes were a girl group of the 1960s from New York City, best known for their work with producer Phil Spector. They consisted of lead singer Veronica Bennett (a.k.a. Ronnie Spector), her sister, the late Estelle Bennett, and their cousin Nedra Talley. Their defining album is Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica from 1964, and their most famous songs include "Be My Baby", "Baby, I Love You", "(The Best Part of) Breakin' Up", and "(Walking) In the Rain".

The group's career

Sisters Estelle (1941-2009) and Veronica Bennett (born 1943), and their cousin Nedra Talley (born 1947), began singing together as teenagers in Washington Heights, Manhattan. Encouraged by their grandmother, they entered and won a talent show at the Apollo Theatre in 1959, as The Darling Sisters. Phillip Halikus saw their potential, became their manager, and promoted their early appearances at hops and charity shows.

In 1961, while standing in line at the Peppermint Lounge, they were mistaken for a singing trio that had not arrived and were ushered on stage. After performing Ray Charles' "What'd I Say", they were signed to appear regularly there and in Miami. Later that year, they danced in shows staged by disc jockey Murray the K, but, contrary to many sources, did not appear in the 1961 film Twist Around the Clock. They did get a record deal with the Colpix label, and, as Ronnie & the Relatives, released their first single "I Want a Boy". They also worked as backing singers for Bobby Rydell, Del Shannon, and Joey Dee. Renamed as The Ronettes, they issued several more singles with Colpix and recorded an album, unissued at the time, but had little early commercial success.

In 1963 they came to the attention of producer Phil Spector, who was looking for a new girl group to assume The Crystals' mantle. He was taken with Ronnie's voice and style, and signed The Ronettes to his Philles label. As Spector's new protégées, they were given a strong image as "bad girls", with beehive hairdos, heavy eyeliner, and tight skirts. Their first Philles single was "Be My Baby", co-written by Spector with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, and arranged and produced by Spector. It became a worldwide hit, reaching # 2 on the U.S. pop chart, # 4 on the R&B chart, and # 4 on the UK chart. The follow-up, "Baby, I Love You", had an even denser arrangement, featuring Leon Russell on piano, and backing vocals from Darlene Love and Cher, among others. It was slightly less successful, reaching # 24 in the United States and # 11 in the United Kingdom. The Ronettes also featured on Spector's album A Christmas Gift for You.

Early in 1964 The Ronettes toured England with The Rolling Stones and met The Beatles. They continued to have hits with "The Best Part of Breaking Up" (# 39 U.S., # 43 UK), "Do I Love You?" (# 34 U.S., # 35 UK), and "(Walking) In the Rain" (# 23 U.S.), which won a Grammy for Best Sound Effects, the only one Spector ever received. However, their LP, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica, only reached # 96 and other singles were less successful; musical tastes had moved beyond the girl group sound, and the Ronettes were unable to maintain their relevance. After criss-crossing the United States and Canada as one of the opening acts for the final concert tour of The Beatles, they disbanded at the end of 1966.

Later events

Estelle Bennett and Nedra Talley each married and, in 1968, Ronnie Bennett married Phil Spector and retired from performance for several years. In 1971, under Spector's direction, Ronnie recorded "Try Some, Buy Some" for the Beatles' Apple label. This was her last credited charting record, reaching # 77 in the spring of 1971.

In 1973, as she and Spector were about to divorce, she returned to performing at Richard Nader's "Rock and Roll Revival" show at Madison Square Garden. Her new version of The Ronettes at that time included Denise Edwards and Chip Fields, and they issued two singles on the Buddah label.

In 1988, the original Ronettes sued Spector for nonpayment of royalties. In 2001, a New York court announced a verdict in favor of the Ronettes, ordering Spector to pay nearly three million dollars in back royalties; however, the judgment was later overturned on appeal.

Awards and recognition

The Ronettes were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004.

It was believed that Phil Spector, in his capacity as a member of the Board of Governors, deliberately prevented the Ronettes (and Darlene Love) from being nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although they had been eligible for a considerable period. The alleged reasons included the acrimonious divorce of Ronnie and Spector, in addition to the group having (unsuccessfully) sued Spector for back royalties. While Spector was awaiting trial on a murder charge and out on $1 million bail, the Ronettes were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the March 12, 2007, induction ceremony held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Keith Richards, a self-confessed longtime fan, inducted the trio. Ronnie Bennett (Spector) and Nedra Talley performed "Baby I Love You," "(Walking) In the Rain" and "Be My Baby." Estelle Bennett was present to accept her award but did not perform.

Discography

Singles

Year

Title

Chart Positions

U.S. Hot 100

UK Charts

1961

"MY DARLING ANGEL" May 111

-

1961

"I WANT A BOY" Colpix 601

-

1962

"SILHOUETTES" (1961) May 114

-

1962

"I'M GONNA QUIT WHILE I'M AHEAD" (1961) Colpix 646

-

1962

"THE MEMORY" (1961) May 138

-

1963

"BE MY BABY" Philles 116

2

1963

"BABY I LOVE YOU" Philles 118

24

1964

"(THE BEST PART OF) BREAKIN' UP" Philles 120

39

1964

"DO I LOVE YOU?" Philles 121

34

1964

"(WALKING) IN THE RAIN" Philles 123

23

1965

"BORN TO BE TOGETHER" Philles 126

52

1965

"IS THIS WHAT I GET FOR LOVING YOU?" Philles 128

75

1965

"HE DID IT" (1961) Dimension 1046

-

1966

"I CAN HEAR MUSIC" Philles 133

100

1969

"YOU CAME, YOU SAW, YOU CONQUERED!" A&M 1040

-

1973

"GO OUT AND GET IT" Buddah 384

-

1974

"I WISH I NEVER SAW THE SUNSHINE" Buddah 408

-

1976

"PARADISE" Warner/Spector 409

-

Album Releases

  • A Christmas Gift for You (1963, Phillies Records #4005)
  • Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica (1964, Phillies Records #4006)
  • The Ronettes featuring Veronica (1965, Colpix Records #486)

Compilations

  • 1963 Today's Hits Phillies
  • 1965 The Ronettes: The Early Years Rhino
  • 1967 Cha Cha Cha Roper
  • 1975 Sing Their Greatest Hits Phil Spector
  • 1981 The Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 Masters
  • 1990 Greatest Hits Spectacular Sound
  • 1992 Best of the Ronettes EMI
  • 1992 The Best of the Ronettes ABKCO
  • 2005 Ronettes Featuring Veronica EMI Gold
  • 2005 Silhouettes Collectables
  • The Complete Colpix & Buddah Sessions Sequel

 

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