On this day in music history: August 13, 1963 …

On this day in music history: August 13, 1963 – “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes is released. Written by Phil Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, it is the sixth single release and biggest hit for the pop vocal group from New York City. Raised in Spanish Harlem, sisters Veronica “Ronnie”, Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley begin singing together, as kids. Inspired by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, the girls form their own group in 1957, also adding their cousins Ira, Elaine and Diane. The group perform at the Apollo Theater’s legendary amateur night singing “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”. When Ira is unable to sing, Ronnie steps in immediately and takes the lead, earning a favorable response from the notoriously tough audience. Ira, Elaine and Diane drop out of the group, leaving the other three to continue on their own. Calling themselves Ronnie & The Relatives, they begin performing at local parties and events around the city. In 1961, they meet Stu Phillips of Colpix Records, who sign them to a recording contract. They release several singles that fail to make any impact, but wind up becoming regular performers at the Peppermint Lounge. The club manager mistakes them for dancers, and puts them on stage behind Joey Dee & The Star Liters. Now re-named The Ronettes, they release a few more singles with Colpix before breaking ties with them. In early 1963, Estelle contacts producer and songwriter Phil Spector, and asks if the group can audition for him. Impressed, Spector signs them to his label Philles Records in March of 1963. Cutting several sides, they’re either shelved or released under their label mates The Crystals name. In July, they record a new song penned by Spector and the husband and wife songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. The song titled “Be My Baby” is recorded at Gold Star Studios on July 5, 1963, with Spector using members of the famed studio collective The Wrecking Crew. In spite of being credited to The Ronettes, Ronnie is the only member of the group on the single, with Estelle and Nedra’s places being taken by a group of backing vocalists including Darlene Love & The Blossoms, Ellie Greenwich, Nino Tempo, Sonny Bono and a then seventeen year old Cher. Released just over a month later, the record quickly becomes a smash, peaking at #2 on the Hot 100 on October 12, 1963, and #4 on the R&B chart on October 26, 1963. Widely regarded as one of the greatest pop records ever made, “Be My Baby” becomes one the songs that defines Phil Spector’s signature “Wall Of Sound” production. The song is covered countless times over the years, including versions by Andy Kim, Shaun Cassidy, and Tommy Roe. In 1986, the chorus of “Be My Baby” is interpolated into Eddie Money’s hit “Take Me Home Tonight”, with Ronnie Spector herself singing the hook. “Be My Baby” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999, and added to the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress in 2006.

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