Feb 14, 2009

The Passing of Ronette- Estelle Bennett

centerfield maz is a fan of Ronnie Spector & the Ronettes, and it is with sad regret to report the passing of Estelle Bennett. Estelle was Ronnie's sister and a back up singer in the group, along with cousin Nedra Talley.

Estelle was born and raised in Washington Heights, New York city on July 21, 1941. Ronnie described her sister as 'prim and proper' and studious during their childhood, graduating as valedictorian of her high school class. The girls were encouraged to sing at a young age and eventually won a talent show at the Apollo Theater. They were discovered while they were the back up singer/dancers at New York's Peppermint Lounge. By 1963 they hit it big with "Be My Baby" starting the girl group explosion. They had a string of hits until 1966 including "Walking In The Rain" "Do I Love You" "I Can Hear Music' "Why Dont they Let Us Fall In Love" 'Best Part of Breaking Up" & the Christmas classics "Sleigh ride" "Frosty" & "Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" which are still played regularly today. They toured England in 1963 & became friends with the Beatles & Stones who were big fans. After ward Ronnie married Phil Spector, his jealousy kept the group under wraps and he pulled them from the lime light. They began to fade right after they opened for the Beatles at Shea Stadium. A close friend said Estelle was broken hearted over their split.

She attended The Institute of Fashion & Design in New York. Estelle & her sister were very involved in the look of the group. The fashion, hair & make up were all very important to the bands success. Her cousin Nedra said: 'She was quiet. She was not pretentious at all, but she carried herself with a sophistication that a lot of guys thought was really sexy.' During the group's heyday, Estelle dated Mick Jagger, George Harrison, Johnny Mathis and George Hamilton.
She recorded one single in 1966 after the Ronettes broke up- "The Year 2000". Since then she has remained out of the spot light. It is believed she suffered from anorexia & schizophrenia at times. She was married & became Estelle Dong. She has one daughter & three grand children. Estelle chose not to perform with the Ronettes at the 2007 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions. She did appeared at the podium and spoke a few brief words during the acceptance speech, "I would just like to say, thank you very much for giving us this award. I'm Estelle of the Ronettes, thank you." A friend said she loved the attention & paparazzi of the nights events.

The police were contacted earlier this week, after Ronnie & her husband Jonathan Greenfield were unable to contact her. She was found dead in her apartment in Englewood, New Jersey on Wednesday. One report says the cause of death was colon cancer, others state unknown, she was 67. RIP Estelle.
Ronnie Spectors web site states "Estelle is Gone- to my beloved sister, Rest in Peace, you deserve it".

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was a devoted fan of the Ronettes. They were my classmates at George Washington High School in Washington Heights.

Nedra Talley sat right next to me in Ms. Strayer's typing class, and Veronica Bennett was in my gym class.

I am sorry to hear that Estelle passed away.

What a great girl's group they were; and oh, so beautiful!!!

I send my sincere condolences.

Carmen Cook

Anonymous said...

Hi Carmen...

That is so cool that you were a classmate of the Ronettes!

I am a huge fan, and would love to chat or hear from you about any other recollections that you have of your time together in high school. If you want, you can write to me at pauldepace@aol.com that is pauldepace at AOL dot com

Paul

Texas