The Ronettes made their mark on the music industry in the 1960s, despite the limited amount of actual music they produced. So in this article, we’re going to pay homage to this old school girl group by sharing our picks for the best Ronettes songs that were ever made. Hopefully, you’ll find one or two gems on this list you enjoy enough to add to your playlist!
Best Ronettes Songs That You Will Enjoy
Let’s begin with a track entitled “I Can Hear Music.”
15) I Can Hear Music
The 1966 track “I Can Hear Music” captures a lighter aspect of Phil and Ronnie Spector’s relationship. The famed producer and the lead singer of the Ronettes began dating shortly after they started working together in 1963. Despite a series of tumultuous events, the two married in 1968. Throughout their relationship, Phil was manipulative and controlling, something Ronnie discusses in her memoir Be My Baby. During their marriage, Ronnie claims Phil was abusive, leading to their divorce in 1974.
But for Ronnie, she chose to focus on the joy their music brought instead of the dark things that happened behind the scenes. After his death in 2021, Ronnie said that “The magical music we were able to make together, was inspired by our love. I loved him madly, and gave my heart and soul to him.” “I Can Hear Music” captures the lighter story, painting the picture of a passionate couple who are captivated by each other.
While the song just barely eked its place in Billboard’s Hot 100, peaking at 100th, it struck a chord with other legendary musicians. The song was covered by both the Beach Boys, who were long-time fans of the Ronettes, and Freddie Mercury.
14) Sleigh Ride
Released on Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You, this proves to be one of the most endearing versions of the Christmas classic “Sleigh Ride.” Released in November of 1963, A Christmas Gift For You features Phil Spector-ized Christmas songs performed by the Ronettes, Darlene Love, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, and the Crystals. With an impressive lineup of musicians singing holiday classics, it seems at though the album would have been a hit.
But due to unfortunate timing, the album initially flopped. It was released on November 22nd, the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Much to Phil Spector’s chagrin, the album failed to bring holiday cheer after the tragedy. But as the years passed, A Christmas Gift For You grew in popularity, so much so that Rolling Stone ranked it as the Greatest Christmas Album of All Time. Almost 60 years later, you still hear Ronnie Spector’s sweet voice singing of sleigh bells on the radio.
13) I Wonder
While the song is a cover of the Crystals, the Ronettes’ cover holds its own. The Crystals’ version was also produced by Phil Spector, however it seems to drown in the Wall of Sound. But Ronnie’s voice cuts through; I think that’s why they had such a good musical partnership.
Ronnie’s voice was able to stand out against the grand orchestras oversaturated in reverb. Her voice didn’t get muddy or lost. It shone brightly, bringing a nice contrast to the instrumentals.
12) Born To Be Together
Another love at first sight song penned by Phil Spector, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil, “Born To Be Together” is the perfect showcase of Spector’s famous producing style. Ronnie Spector wrote in Be My Baby that she thought it was “romantic” that Phil wrote that song – among others – for her, but “Born To Be Together” feels more like a love letter to his Wall of Sound technique.
While all of the Ronettes songs feature this to some extent, it is especially prominent on this track. You gather an understanding of how Spector’s producing style got its name when the first chorus hits, as it feels as though you have walked flat into a musical wall. The sound is almost overwhelming; there is so much happening, so many instruments downing each other out, but it is very clearly calculated.
You could re-listen to the song dozens of times and still not be able to determine all of the instruments, as they are mixed so carefully that they all seem to be indistinguishable. Spector’s meticulous layering did on occasion result in a chaotic sound instead of a pristine one, but was undoubtedly effective in creating depth that could not be replicated. Combined with Ronnie’s distinct voice, the end result is a truly unique track that represents both of the Spector’s signature sound.
11) Is This What I Get For Loving You?
Contrasting the bubbly love songs on this list is “Is This What I Get For Loving You,” a lyrically gloomy take on heartbreak that follows a fleeting romance. The 1965 track was written by Phil Spector, Gerry Goffin, and Carole King. But despite the legendary songwriting team, the song failed to be a major success for the Ronettes. “Is This What I Get For Living You?” and “Born To Be Together” were the only Ronettes songs to chart in 1965, with the former song peaking at 75th.
Following the massive success the Ronettes had in 1964, it’s not a surprise that they opted for a less cheerful song after their career had taken a dip. Spector sounds resigned here; she isn’t trying hard to win her guy back, instead she’s quietly reflecting on the aftermath of the relationship.
10) You Came, You Saw, You Conquered
By 1969, the group’s popularity had fizzled out, but Phil Spector was determined to give the Ronettes another hit. So, he wrote the carefree song “You Came, You Saw, You Conquered” with Toni Wine and Irving Levine. Commercially, the song was a flop for the Ronettes. But clearly commercial success doesn’t determine how good a song is, because “You Came, You Saw, You Conquered” is one of the Ronettes’ best.
Lyrically, the song is much more clever than some of the group’s biggest hits. The chorus is extremely memorable and catchy, even by Ronettes standards. Had it been released at a different point in their career, the song could have been one of their most popular. But now, the song is tucked away as a more hidden gem to enjoy.
9) You Baby
The 1963 release “You Baby” is a love song filled with devotion. From the opening verse, Spector’s intensity was captured with the lyrics “I’m gonna live and die for only you.” Her “bad girl” side bubbled to the surface a few times on the track, including with the lyrics “Baby, baby, now you’re gonna know / All the ways I plan to thrill you so.”
“You Baby” was notably covered in 1965 by the Lovin’ Spoonful, but lack’s Ronnie’s dedication that cannot be replicated.
8) When I Saw You
Capturing the feeling of love at first sight with simple lyrics, “When I Saw You” is a song of early romance. Spector tenderly sings about a special “something” that captivates her. Released on Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes and as the B-side to “I Can Hear Music,” the original version of the song was recorded in 1963. But that recording was scrapped in favor of the more famous version appearing on the album and single.
7) Why Don’t They Let Us Fall In Love
Although “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall In Love” was released at the height of the Ronettes’ popularity in 1964, it failed to be a commercial success. But that doesn’t mean the song is without charms – quite the contrary. In the song, Spector sings of a budding romance being forbidden due to the young lovers’ age and perceived immaturity.
For Ronnie Spector, there was probably a bit of truth bubbling under the surface of what sounds to be a straightforward pop song. At the time the song was recorded in 1963, Ronnie and Phil Spector were beginning their relationship. However, Ronnie didn’t know that Phil was secretly married.
In her memoir, she wrote about the discomfort of the early days of the relationship, when something felt off, but she didn’t know what. She found out about his marriage in the spring of 1964, only a few months before “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall In Love” was released.
The song is well performed, and the repetitiveness does make it catchy, so why wasn’t it a hit? The downfall of “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall In Love” is that it wasn’t technically released as a Ronettes song. Originally, the song was released as a single by Veronica, a name Ronnie Spector released solo music under. But the song has ended up on Ronettes compilation albums, mainly because the line between Spector’s solo music and the Ronettes is extremely blurred.
Spector confessed in her memoir that the other members of the group often didn’t appear on Ronettes songs, writing “I’ve never told anyone this, but it’s true – Nedra and Estelle didn’t even appear on some of the record that had our name on them.”
6) So Young
The Ronettes’ cover of “So Young” may feel familiar after listening to “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall In Love.” Thematically, the two are very similar. “So Young” could have passed as a Phil Spector song, but was first recorded in 1958 by the Students.
Also like “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall In Love,” the song was originally credited to Veronica. But despite the similarities, “So Young” shows off a grander side of Spector’s voice. “So Young” doesn’t seem to play it quite as vocally safe, instead exploring new runs and flips. While this cover doesn’t depart dramatically from the original, Spector’s distinct voice gives the song new life and turns it into one of the Ronettes’ best.
5) (The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up
A favorite of both fans and Phil Spector, “The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up” is a playful track that shows off a bit of Ronnie Spector’s mischievousness. The bar was set high for the song, as it was the third consecutive hit in the U.S., following up the successes of “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You.” But the song held up to expectations, holding a legacy as one of the group’s greatest hits.
Ronnie discussed Phil Spector’s love for the song in Be My Baby, writing “When Phil loved a song as much as he loved “(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up,” he could work on it for days without ever getting tired.” The tirelessness showed on the final track, as the song is packed with unique elements that gave the song an edge in the middle of a string of hits.
Some of these creative decisions are fairly obvious, like the false ending and the background vocals that highlight all of the reasons why the Ronettes were major influences for the Beach Boys. But there are small touches, like the abrupt cut in instrumentals right before the bridge, that give the song it’s character. With ever listen, you can uncover something new to love about “The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up.”
4) Baby I Love You
Desperate to follow up the wild success of “Be My Baby,” Phil Spector turned to frequent writing collaborators Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry to pen another hit. Only 3 months after “Be My Baby,” the Ronettes released their next big hit. “Baby I Love You” shares many of the qualities found in Ronettes songs: it centers around themes of romance, it was treated with Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound technique, and it is equally catchy.
But there is something a bit magical about this song, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. Maybe Ronnie Spector nailed her vocal take, or there is some unique layer buried in the wall of sound. Despite the many similarities their other hits, there is something about this song that sets it apart from the crowd.
There is, however, one thing this song is missing: the Ronettes. The Ronettes were on tour with Dick Clark when the song was recorded, with Ronnie and Estelle’s cousin Elaine taking Ronnie’s place onstage. Phil Spector held Ronnie back from the tour so she could record the song, swapping out the other Ronettes for Cher, Darlene Love, and anyone else that happened to be in the studio that could record backing vocals. As previously discussed, this seemed to be common practice for the Ronettes, and didn’t interfere with the song being a hit.
3) Do I Love You?
Beginning with a grand finger-snapping, horn laden intro, “Do I Love You” immediately stands out from the crowd. While thematically similar to many of the Ronettes’ greatest hits, this song feels a bit more mature. The lyrics are a bit school girlish, but Spector’s voice has a rougher quality on this track, leading to a more grown-up feel.
Commercially, the song was a modest hit for the Ronettes. It peaked at 34th on the Billboard Hot 100. But it wasn’t how well the song did that made it a lasting success, it was the infectious intro and earnest vocals that earned “Do I Love You?” its place on this list.
2) Walking In The Rain
Right from the, quite literally, thundering intro, it’s hard not to be captivated by “Walking In The Rain.” The 1964 hit was written by Phil Spector, Cynthia Weil, and Barry Mann. The song charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 and was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Engineered Recording – Special or Novel Effects,” …but lost to “The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles.”
Chipmunks aside, there was a bit of magic behind the recording that made the song so special. As Spector discuses in Be My Baby, the recording of “Walking In The Rain” you hear today was supposed to be a practice take. Phil Spector had just finished the instrumentals and went into the studio to play it for Ronnie.
She closed her eyes and began singing along, unaware that she was actually being recorded. After she got through the whole song, she opened her eyes to find out that everyone else was ecstatic that she has nailed the take. According to Ronnie, it was the only time she recorded a song in one take. While she initially wanted to record a “real take,” she only had to listen to it once back to hear how perfect “Walking In The Rain” is.
1) Be My Baby
“Be My Baby” ranks as not only one of the greatest Ronettes’ songs, but as one of the greatest and most influential songs of the 1960s. The Ronettes were already on the rise in the summer of 1963 when the song was released, but the bright pop tune catapulted them into stardom. It’s easy to see why the song was so successful – it seems to have everything.
The song perfectly represents Phil Spector as a producer, with his Wall of Sound taking the spotlight once again. The melody is extremely catchy and fits Ronnie’s voice like a glove, and the lyrics reflect her commanding presence. But one of the most iconic elements of the song happened completely on accident. Drummer Hal Blaine accidentally dropped a stick while recording the intro but decided to leave it in and keep going. In a moment of serendipity that couldn’t have been recreated, the famous drumbeat was born.
The legacy and impact of “Be My Baby” is astonishing; it’s hard to fathom what Butterfly Effect might have occurred had the song not been released. Musicians including Freddie Mercury, The Beatles, and most notably, Brian Wilson, have cited the song as being a major influence to them. The track has been covered numerous times and has served as the inspiration for countless other songs. “Be My Baby” isn’t just an infectious pop hit, it’s one of the most influential songs of the last century.
This list discussed the 15 best Ronettes songs, but there are several hidden gems tucked away in their music catalogue to enjoy. While their career was brief, the trio certainly packed a punch with their time in the spotlight. Both Estelle and Ronnie have passed, but their music continues to live on through Nedra and everyone who loves the Ronettes.
This article was written by Carissa and edited by Michael.