Thursday, February 26, 2009

Estelle Bennet of the Ronettes Dies...

original article in the montclarion

With their dark, cat-eye makeup, high beehives and tight clothing, the Ronettes topped the charts with their hits "Be My Baby" and "Baby, I Love You" in the '60s. Though their unique look may have set them apart from other girl groups, their music made them become one of the most memorable groups of all time.

One of the trio, Estelle Bennett, was found dead in her apartment in Englewood, N.J., on Wednesday, Feb. 11. Her cause of death is unknown; she was 67.

The Ronettes composed of Bennett sisters Ronnie and Estelle and their cousin Nedra Talley started in 1959 and broke up in 1966. Being from New York City, their big break was in 1961, when they were supposedly confused with another trio and put on stage at the infamous Peppermint Lounge. They covered Ray Charles' "What'd I Say," and their talent quickly stunned many as they worked their way up to getting a record deal.

The group helped producer and songwriter Phil Spector perfect his signature "wall of sound" technique. By having a layered echoing ensemble of instruments behind the group's candy-coated, yet fiery voices, Spector and the Ronettes created music that remains engrained in people's minds after all these years.

After making a few recordings as a solo artist following the Ronettes' split, Bennett stopped making music. Her life changed drastically from fortune to dealing with the hardships of mental illness.

Bennett hid from the public eye, struggling with anorexia and schizophrenia (according to Talley) after her fame with the Ronettes.

The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Bennett refused to perform for fear of being overwhelmed, but gave a quick "thank you" and an awkward, "I'm Estelle of the Ronettes," at her acceptance speech during the ceremony.

Even though Bennett was a backup singer in the Ronettes, she had played a big part in creating their image. The overdone eye makeup and tall beehives that the group made their trademark can still be seen on fashion runways and on artists like Amy Winehouse, showing that their classic look hasn't gone out of style.

Bennett's death has touched many fans, leaving them devastated, along with her sister, Ronnie Spector, who left a note on her website saying, "To my beloved sister, Rest in peace, You deserve it."

Leaving behind her daughter, three grandchildren and sister, the memories of her synchronized dance moves and timid, yet sweet stage presence as one of the Ronettes will never be forgotten.

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