Thursday, February 12, 2009
Estelle Bennett, 1941-2009
Estelle Bennett, one of the original Ronettes and the sister of the legendary Ronnie Spector, dead at the age of 67. The Ronettes were originally called Ronnie and the Relatives, and in 1961 released a single titled "I Want a Boy" on the Colpix label, but it went nowhere, and they spent a few years working mostly as backup singers for the likes of Bobby Rydell and Del Shannon. But once Phil Spector saw them, their legend was assured; the first single by the rechristened Ronettes was a little something called "Be My Baby."
Estelle and Ronnie's father was Irish, and their mother was a mix of African-American and Native American. This gave them an exotic look that, combined with their extraordinary singing ability, made them hugely popular even among their fellow musicians. When the girls were on tour in England circa 1965, Mick Jagger was supposedly greatly interested in both Bennett sisters, to no avail.
Phil Spector apparently lobbied for a while to keep the Ronettes out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they finally got the nod in 2007. Keith Richards inducted them. Ronnie and the third original Ronette, Nedra Talley, sang some of their hits; Estelle didn't, for reasons that remain obscure, but I'm glad she was at least there. At the podium, she simply said, "I would just like to say, thank you very much for giving us this award. I'm Estelle of the Ronettes, thank you." No, thank you, Estelle.