The American singer Ronnie Spector, best known as the leader of 1960s girl group the Ronettes, has died. She was 78 and had been diagnosed with cancer.

In a statement on her website, Spector's family wrote: "Our beloved earth angel, Ronnie, peacefully left this world today after a brief battle with cancer.

"She was with family and in the arms of her husband, Jonathan. Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on her face. She was filled with love and gratitude."

Born Veronica Bennett in New York City on 10 August 1943, Spector was the daughter of an African American-Cherokee mother and Irish American father.

She formed the musical group later known as the Ronettes with her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, gaining traction in the New York area with their soulful songs of young love, before signing in 1963 with the then-legendary producer Phil Spector - who she would go on to marry.

With their vampy, heavily lidded eyes, sky-high beehive hairstyles and skirts cut above the knee, the Ronettes delivered a string of hits during their early 1960s heyday, including Baby, I Love You and (The Best Part of) Breakin' Up, along with the beloved Be My Baby that in 1999 was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Ronnie Spector circa 1964

The Ronettes broke up in 1967 following a European concert tour.

In 1968, Ronnie married Phil Spector, once the king of rock 'n' roll producers.

The pair divorced in 1974, and in her autobiography the singer chronicled years of horrifically abusive behaviour perpetrated by her ex.

In 2009, Phil Spector was jailed for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson. He died in prison in January 2021.

Following the breakup of the Ronettes, Ronnie Spector continued a solo career, which included a number of collaborations with artists like Eddie Money and Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.

Her last studio album, English Heart, was released in 2016.

Source: AFP