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Music

Watch Ronnie Spector and Bruce Springsteen cover 'Be My Baby' in 1976

@josephtaysom

The late Ronnie Spector played a pivotal role in Bruce Springsteen’s career, providing the E-Street Band with a lifeline when they needed it most during their most precarious time.

Spector’s career was also going through a sticky patch. She’d reformed The Ronettes in 1973, but their new material failed to chart, and Spector needed the E-Street Band just as much as they needed her. Due to a complicated predicament with his record label, Bruce Springsteen could not record music throughout 1977, which left his band forced to look at left-field for a replacement.

Spector was an unlikely substitute for Springsteen, but her voice worked magnificently within the dynamic of the E-Street Band. The first time they performed together in public was the previous November when she appeared on-stage during their encore at the Palladium in New York to deliver a spine-tingling rendition of ‘Be My Baby’.

Remarkably, John Lennon was responsible for this unlikely meeting of minds. Spector had met the Beatle while walking the streets of New York, and he insisted on putting her in touch with producer Jimmy Iovine, who he felt could resuscitate her career. She obliged, and Iovine then invited her down to join him at his studio when he was working with Steve Van Zandt’s side-project, Southside Johnny.

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Springsteen insisted that she sang on the track, ‘You Mean So Much To Me’, which he wrote for the upcoming Southside record, and the following year, the E-Street Band backed her on the single, ‘Say Goodbye To Hollywood’. “We all fell in love with that voice,” Van Zandt told Rolling Stone about Spector. “That combination of innocence and a little bit of sensuality and sexuality.”

“At a certain point, we realised that she had changed the vibrato of her voice,” Van Zandt said about the collaboration. “She changed her style a bit in the off years and so we just kind of reminded her, there’s this thing you do, this really cool sexy vibrato thing. And then we got the take.”

Thanks to Lennon putting Spector in contact with Iovine, she formed a lifelong friendship with Springsteen and his merry men. While they didn’t record any further material together, their bond was genuine, and she joined them on-stage as recently as 2016.

Their performance in 1976 at the Palladium of The Ronettes’ hit single ‘Be My Baby’ rests on her flawless vocals. Throughout the performance, Springsteen can be heard repeatedly yelling at the crowd, “This song is special,” and he’s not wrong. 

Pop writing simply doesn’t get much purer than ‘Be My Baby’. It’s a masterclass to which the E-Street pay tribute to with their rendition, and Spector’s voice sounds as impressionable as ever. After the song draws to a close, an audibly out of breath Bruce sounds overwhelmed by the magic that has just occurred on-stage, and after listening to their version, you’ll understand why.