Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Feb 13th 2009 8:40AM by Spinner Staff / Wire Services
Bennett's brother-in-law, Jonathan Greenfield, said police found her dead in her apartment in Englewood, N.J. on Wednesday after relatives had been unable to contact her. The time and cause of death have not yet been determined.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame welcomed the Ronettes in 2007, with voting members calling the trio "the premier act of the girl group era." The Beatles and the Rolling Stones considered themselves fans; their exotic hairstyles and makeup are aped by Amy Winehouse.
Greenfield is the manager and husband of Bennett's sister, Ronettes lead singer Ronnie Spector, who married producer Spector in 1968 but divorced him six years later.
The Ronettes - sisters Veronica "Ronnie" and Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley - signed with Spector's Philles Records in 1963. Their recording of the iconic hit single "Be My Baby" hit No. 2 on Billboard magazine's pop music chart that year. "Baby I Love You" followed in 1964.
They also did a memorable version of "Sleigh Ride" that appeared on Spector's "A Christmas Gift for You" album. Their last Philles single was "I Can Hear Music" in 1966. The songs feature Spector's elaborate arrangements that blend many instruments into a smooth, pulsating "wall."
"They could sing all their way right through a wall of sound," Keith Richards of the Stones said as the Ronettes were inducted into the rock hall. "They didn't need anything. They touched my heart right there and then and they touch it still."
But their string of hits had tailed off by the time they split around 1967.
Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Jose Luis Magana, AP
Dave Allocca, Getty Images
Tom Copi, Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images
Samir Hussein, Getty Images
Michael Bush, WireImage
Greenfield said Ronnie Spector was devastated over her sister's death. "Estelle was Ronnie's sidekick in the Ronettes," Greenfield, of Newbury, Conn., said Thursday.. "She was very much into fashion and worked with Ronnie on the whole look and style of the Ronettes."
After the group's breakup, Bennett rarely made public appearances. And for nearly 15 years, the trio waged a lengthy, and ultimately unsuccessful, court battle with producer Spector over royalties.
They sued Spector in the late 1980s, saying he had cheated them out of royalties by using their music in ways not authorized by the their recording contract. For example, "Be My Baby" was played in the opening credits of the smash 1987 movie "Dirty Dancing."
A trial was held in 1998, and in 2000, the judge ordered Spector to pay $2.6 million in past royalties and interest for the use of Ronettes songs as background music in movies, videocassette recordings, and advertising. But New York State's highest court threw out that ruling on appeal in 2002. The judges noted that the contract did not actually mention secondary rights to the use of music, so-called "synchronization rights," which are a more modern phenomenon in the entertainment industry. But under New York state contract law, the court said, the singers did not control those rights unless their contract specifically said they did.
At the group's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2007, Ronnie Spector did not mention her ex-husband, but he sent a note that was read at the ceremony saying, "I wish them all the happiness and good fortune the world has to offer." In recent years, Phil Spector has been battling criminal charges in the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson.
Bennett was born in 1941, her sister in 1943 and Talley in 1945, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Web site.
In addition to her sister, Bennett is survived by a daughter, Toyin Hunter of Santa Monica, Calif., and three grandsons.
2009 AOL LLC. All Rights Reserved. // Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. // Copyright 2009, Reuters