In 1961, The Ronettes, the New York City girl group made up of Veronica (Ronnie) Bennett, her sister Estelle Bennett, and their cousin Nedra Talley, were signed to Colpix Records and released a handful of singles, but nothing hit. By 1963, the trio caught the attention of producer Phil Spector, and moved to his Philles Records, expanding their sound with his famous “Wall of Sound” production technique.
At first, Spector had the group record a song “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall in Love,” penned by the songwriting duo of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who were married at the time and had already written a number of hits in 1963 and 1964 for other girl groups, including The Dixie Cups’ “Chapel Of Love,” “Da Doo Ron Ron” by The Crystals, and The Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack.”
As was his custom, Spector is also credited as a songwriter on the track, but eventually opted for another song written by Barry and Greenwich, “Be My Baby,” as The Ronettes first single.
Backed by a band of musicians, including guitarists Tommy Tedesco and Bill Pitman, pianist Don Randi, bassist Ray Pohlman, drummers Hal Blaine and Frank Capp, and keyboardist Al de Lory along with string section and backing vocals by then-new couple Sonny and Cher, along with Darlene Love—“Be My Baby” was recorded at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, California on July 5, 1963.
Sung by Veronica (Ronnie Spector), who pierced through each lyric with her big voice, “Be My Baby” tells the story of an immediate love connection and a girl pining for the attention of one particular guy.
The night we met I knew I needed you so
And if I had the chance I’d never let you go
So won’t you say you love me
I’ll make you so proud of me
We’ll make ’em turn their heads every place we go
In her 1995 memoir aptly titled Be My Baby, Spector said she rehearsed the song for weeks and spent days getting her vocals just right, perfecting all her “oh-oh-ohs” and “whoas,” prior to recording.
“In the studio, I had to hide in the ladies’ room so the musicians could get their work done — I was very pretty and they’d keep looking at me,” said Ronnie Spector in a 2015 interview. “While I was in there, I came up with all those ‘Oh oh ohs,’ inspired by my old Frankie Lymon records. It took three days to record my vocals, take after take.”
I’ll make you happy, baby, just wait and see
For every kiss you give me I’ll give you three
Oh, since the day I saw you
I have been waiting for you
You know I will adore you ’til eternity
Upon its release that same year, “Be My Baby” became an instant hit for The Ronettes. The group toured with Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars, and the legendary host even said “This is going to be the record of the century” on his TV music show American Bandstand.
Eventually, The Ronettes would include “Be My Baby” on their first and only album together Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica, released in 1964 and also included the group’s hit “Baby, I Love You.”
Though The Ronettes broke up in 1967, “Be My Baby” remains their biggest hit. Reaching No. 2 on the Billboard 100 chart upon release, it’s also the only Top 10 song for the group. In 1999, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, marking 35 years since its release. By 2006, “Be My Baby” was also added to the United States National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.
Throughout the years, “Be My Baby” has made its way into the film—opening sequence of 1987 film Dirty Dancing—and has been covered multiple times. In 1986, Eddie Money sampled “Be My Baby” in his hit “Take Me Home Tonight,” also featuring Spector on vocals.
In 1973, John Lennon recorded a rendition of “Be My Baby” during his sessions for his 1973 album Rock ‘N’ Roll, which was later released on the John Lennon Anthology in 1998.
Beach Boy co-founder Brian Wilson, who always loved the song, wrote a response to the 1963 classic on the group’s 1964 release “Don’t Worry Baby,” which Spector later covered on her 1999 album She Talks to Rainbows.
Photos: Ruven Afanador / Courtesy of Artist