Ronnie Spector, leader of the girl group The Ronettes and ’60s megastar vocalist known for rock songs such as “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You” and “Walking In The Rain” has died at 78.

“Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on her face. She was filled with love and gratitude,” said the singer’s family in a statement. They also revealed that she had died after a short bout of cancer.

The Ronettes were comprised of Spector, her sister Estelle Bennet, and their cousin Nedra Talley, and became a hugely popular girl group due to their powerful voices and bold use of their beauty and sex appeal. The group toured England with The Rolling Stones, and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1965 for “Walking in the Rain.”

Spector was born Veronica Yvette Bennett on Aug 10, 1943, in Spanish Harlem, New York. She was biracial, born to an African-American-Cherokee mother and Irish-American father, and was encouraged into singing with her sister and cousin by their huge family in New York. They got their start in New York performing at local bar mitzvahs, and informal dances called sock hops.

The group was signed by the late songwriter and producer Phil Spector in 1963, with Ronnie eventually marrying Spector and taking his name in 1968. The pair later separated in 1972, with the group suing Phil Spector once in 1988 for collecting royalties on their music. Spector claimed in her memoir that she was psychologically tormented by Phil for years during their marriage, and he subjected her to career sabotage by not allowing her to perform.

The Ronettes have been hugely influential to rock music. Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson have all listed The Ronettes as influences. British musician Amy Winehouse used Ronnie Spector’s fashion and bad-girl attitude as a major point of inspiration for her persona.

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