On July 23, 2011, the world lost one of the greatest singer-lyricist of our time, Amy Winehouse.
Soul, jazz, R&B and hip hop, Winehouse infused it all with her own unique sound. But who influenced Winehouse’s music? Over the next few days TWM will look at the artists whose influence can be seen in her life and work. Chaka V.
The Ronettes were one of the most popular girl groups of the 1960’s.
Ronnie Spector (born Veronica Bennett) – considered “the original bad girl of rock ‘n’ roll,” her sister Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley, had sung together since they were young girls. Their exotic beauty, iconic look – exaggerated eyes beneath sky-high dark hair (created by the girls themselves) – and Ronnie’s wiggly vocals catapulted them to the top of the 1960’s Billboard charts.
Their hits included, “Be My Baby” (which inspired the Beach Boys Brian Wilson to pen “Don’t Worry Baby” in tribute to the girls), “Baby, I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain.” The Ronettes also enjoyed the distinction of being the only girl group to ever tour with the Beatles. (John Lennon and Ronnie enjoyed a romance and Estelle briefly dated George Harrison). Ronnie also partook in a fondly remembered love affair with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones – he called waking up beside her “heaven.” (The Rolling Stones originally opened for the Ronettes during the Ronettes UK tour). But many speculate that their fame was prematurely cut short due to Ronnie’s relationship, and later marriage, with Phil Spector.
The sordid tale of Ronnie and Phil is as disturbing as Tina Turner’s abusive and controlling relationship with Ike Turner. As the Ronettes were poised to take their fame to the next level, Spector’s possessive fixation towards Ronnie grew all consuming. Despite recording a great deal of material, Spector began to keep much of the groups catalogue vaulted fearing that their growing fame would inspire Ronnie to end the relationship. Motown seized upon the Ronettes dwindling output and fading popularity, and the Supremes – with their notably stronger voices – and charismatic frontwoman Diana Ross, went on to become the legendary group.
Nevertheless, the Ronette’s classic pop songs (they’ve been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame), stunningly tall beehives and Cleopatra eyes would re-emerge as the major inspiration behind Amy Winehouse’s visual transformation. Hair stylist Alex Foden borrowed directly from the group when Winehouse was preparing for her second (and last), game changing album Back to Black.
Like Winehouse the Ronettes were trailblazers, crafting a small but unforgettable body of work – and image – that will continue to inspire artists to come.