By Mary Ann Bourbeau
RED BANK – Although she hails from Long Island, Ronnie Spector has a longtime connection to New Jersey. It started as early as 1963 when she, along with the Ronettes, played as part of the Joey Dee and the Starlighters Revue in Wildwood.
“New Jersey has always been a special place for the Ronettes and me,” Spector said. “Our first outdoor show ever was at Palisades Park and the very first time we heard ‘Be My Baby’ on ‘American Bandstand,’ we were performing in Wildwood. You never forget those things.”
Spector is back performing with the Ronettes, their first appearances together since the 1970s. The iconic girl group is kicking off their tour at the Count Basie Theatre on April 14, where in addition to the hits, fans will be treated to cult gems, doo-wop, multimedia events, never-before-seen video footage and plenty of Spector’s off-the-cuff commentary. The event is a benefit for Fulfill, formerly the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Special guest Remember Jones will open the show.
“I missed being part of a girl group – the fun, the moves, the style,” said Spector. “So I decide to put the Ronettes back together and I’m having the time of my life on stage.”
Spector rose to fame as the lead singer of the Ronettes, with hits like “Baby I Love You,” “Walking in the Rain” and their No. 1 hit, “Be My Baby.” They became an international sensation, headlining over acts such as the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds. In 1966, the Beatles requested that they join their U.S. tour. In 1971, Spector released her debut single, “Try Some, Buy Some,” written and produced by George Harrison, with a backing band that included Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr. After her tumultuous marriage to legendary music producer Phil Spector ended in 1974, Spector bumped into Lennon in New York City.
“His engineer was with him at the time, who was working on a Southside Johnny album, and he invited me down to the studio,” she said. “They were really excited that I was there, so much so that Bruce (Springsteen) rewrote a song on the spot for Southside and I to record.”
That song was “You Mean So Much to Me, Baby,” which was on Southside Johnny’s 1976 debut album, “I Don’t Want to Go Home.” Spector later recorded Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” with Springsteen and the E Street Band, produced by Steven Van Zandt, which helped launch her solo career.
“The most fun was going out on the road and doing it live with the guys,” she said. “Their respect for me as a singer and performer was important to my confidence, which was very low. Getting me back into the studio and out on the road was a turning point. Looking back, it was the beginning of the second chapter of my career.”
That second chapter included an appearance on Eddie Money’s 1986 blockbuster hit, “Take Me Home Tonight,” in which she answers Money’s chorus lyric, “Just like Ronnie sang” with “Be my little baby.” She went on to work with Joey Ramone, the Misfits, the Raveonettes, Patti Smith and Keith Richards, and for nearly 30 years has been performing Ronnie Spector’s Christmas Party shows. Spector has been inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and, along with the Ronettes, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
“I don’t like to look back,” she said. “I just want to know what’s happening next week and when I’ll be back on stage rocking. For me, that’s what it’s all about – not what I did, but what I’m about to do.”
Spector will perform at the Count Basie Theatre at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 14. Tickets are $29 to $79 and are available by calling 732-842-9000 or visiting .countbasietheatre.org.
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published in the April 12 – 19, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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