Before Ronnie Spector passed away, the beloved singer opened up about her tumultuous marriage to Phil Spector.
The iconic 60s singer died Wednesday at the age of 78 after a brief battle with cancer.
“Ronnie has lived his life with a sparkle in his eyes, a brave demeanor, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on his face,” read a family statement. “She was filled with love and gratitude.” No other details were revealed.
The former Ronettes singer and famous music producer were married from 1968 to 1974. Spector was 17 and Phil 24 when they first met. Phil’s songwriting and production helped the Ronettes, with their sexy looks and powerful vocals, become one of the first groups in the girl group era.
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Yet Spector has previously described their union as abusive. She detailed their unfortunate story involving violence and control in a 1990 autobiography titled “Be My Baby: I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts and Madness”. In the book, Spector said Phil was keeping her locked up in their Beverly Hills mansion.
She even alleged that Phil kept a golden casket in their basement and told him he would kill her if she tried to leave him. She also described how Phil surrounded their house with barbed wire and guard dogs.
“I can only say that when I left in the early ’70s I knew if I didn’t leave then I was going to die there,” the star wrote.
In 2014, Spector told the Telegraph that after their marriage, Phil took her out of the spotlight and imprisoned her. She was only allowed to leave once a month “to pick up my ladies’ things if you understand me” and if she left for 20 minutes he would send a bodyguard. He also allegedly yelled at her so violently that she went silent at one point.
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“The last year of my marriage I didn’t speak at all,” she told the British newspaper. “Because if I said something he would yell at me, so why say anything? I was a scared little girl from Spanish Harlem living in this mansion with five servants, not knowing what to do with it. I cried every time. night I was married. “
Spector added that after his worried mother visited him, the two stayed up “for three days and three nights” to plan his escape.
At the time, she vividly described what made her fall in love with Phil.
“First I fell in love with his composure,” she explained. “He was very cool. He always had a hand in his pocket. And he had a cute butt. I loved his butt, he had the cutest butt. Married men with kids, what to do? so much, I fell in love with this power.
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And there was also this magnetic connection through the song.
“When he was writing these songs and I was sitting on the piano next to him… oh, sweetheart… it was magic,” she said.
Still, Spector stressed, “The more he tried to destroy me, the stronger I got. It made me think, ‘How dare you, you don’t own me.'”
In 2018, Spector told People magazine that during their marriage, Phil adopted a pair of twins without asking him.
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“We were in the car and all of a sudden we pull over at the mansion and there’s a fountain and there are these twins running around – these twins with blond hair and blue eyes,” Spector recalls. “I said, ‘What is this?’ He said: ‘Merry Christmas!’ “
Spector said she suddenly became Gary and Louis’ mother. The boys ended up being raised by their adoptive father after the couple divorced in 1974.
“He never said, ‘Ronnie, what do you think we should do? Should we adopt twins?’ Nothing!” said the pop star. “It was all a surprise, and no woman wants children alive as a surprise. That’s when my mother arrived.”
Spector said she was able to escape Phil in 1972 with the help of her mother, Beatrice.
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“She said, ‘I’m your mother and I’m telling you, we have to get out of here. Or you, my little girl, you are going to go,'” Spector said.
Spector said that after she ran away, she went barefoot to a divorce attorney’s office to seek help.
“I was determined not to go back,” Spector recalls. “That would have been the end of me.”
After the divorce, she returned to her native New York City. Phil was granted custody of their adopted twins and forced her to sign her life into the settlement, depriving her of future record earnings. According to the New York Daily News, Spector testified that she signed the divorce settlement because Phil said he would kill her if she didn’t.
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“Phil threatened me on several occasions,” Spector said on the witness stand of the Manhattan Supreme Court, the outlet revealed. “He said to me, ‘I’m going to kill you’ and ‘I’m going to have you killed by a hit man.'”
Spector, who kept his stage name, made a musical comeback in the 1970s and sang on Eddie Money’s 1983 track “Take Me Home Tonight”. In 1982, she married producer Jonathan Greenfield, who had originally attended one of her comeback concerts.
Over the years, she continued to travel the country. She also hoped that by speaking out, other women in abusive relationships would be forced out with the help of a loved one.
“I would say to any woman, if you’re in a bad relationship, you have to find someone – like my mom,” she explained. “If it’s not your mother, your best friend. Someone needs to help you.”
“It was so dark back then,” she shared. “Now I feel free to be able to tell other women that. Maybe not all women will listen to me, but some will, and I [hope] I can get one or two to save them [own] lives or save them from being abused. “
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Phil died in January 2021 at the age of 81 from natural causes. He was convicted of the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson at his mansion. He was sentenced to 19 years in life imprisonment.
“It’s a sad day for music and a sad day for me,” the singer wrote on Facebook. “When I was working with Phil Spector, watching him create in the recording studio, I knew I was working with the best. He was totally in control of everyone, directing everyone. So much to love those days.”
“Meeting him and falling in love was like a fairy tale,” she continued. “The magical music we were able to make together was inspired by our love. I loved her madly and gave her my heart and soul.”
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“Like I said a few times during his lifetime, he was a brilliant producer, but a terrible husband,” said the “Baby, I Love You” star. “Unfortunately, Phil couldn’t live and function outside of the recording studio. Darkness set in, many lives were damaged.”
“I always smile whenever I hear the music we made together, and I always will,” she concluded her post. “Music will be forever.”
Spector is survived by her husband and two sons.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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