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Obituary: Estelle Bennett

Obituary by Jack Foley

ESTELLE Bennett, former singer with The Ronettes, has died at the age of 67.

The singer was reportedly found dead at her home in New Jersey on Wednesday (February 11, 2009). No cause of death has yet been given.

As part of The Ronettes, Bennett was responsible for hits such as 1963’s Be My Baby and a sound technique that was said to epitomise the one created by legendary producer Phil Spector.

The Ronettes were subsequently inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Born in 1941, Bennett was the oldest of the Ronette singers. Her sister, Veronica “Ronnie”, was born in 1943 and her cousin, Talley, in 1945. They first began performing as the Darling Sisters and later worked as dancers at New York’s Peppermint Lounge, before landing their first recording contract with Colpix, in a deal that went nowhere.

In 1963, however, they signed with Spector’s Philles Records and instantly made music history with the smash hit Be My Baby. The song went to number two in the US that year, and was followed by other successes in the form of Walkin’ in the Rain and Baby I Love You.

Ronnie Bennett married Spector in 1968 but following their divorce six years later, the group launched a lawsuit against the producer which lasted nearly 15 years and ultimately proved unsuccessful. The court battle dealt with the issue of unpaid royalties and they tried to order Spector to pay $2.6m.

But New York State’s highest court threw out that ruling on appeal in 2002.

In addition to her sister, Bennett is survived by a daughter, Toyin Hunter and three grandsons.