Ronnie Spector’s voice made pop songs into pop symphonies. Every note was filled with passion and angst. You can sing great but if you don’t have that passion; that heart and soul, it means nothing.
Spector, who was 78 when he died, knew it all. You felt it. You felt each word when she sang. She led the girl group The Ronettes, which had 1960’s pop and rock hits such as “Be My Baby” and “Walking in the Rain;” she later released almost half-a-dozen solo albums and collaborated with other high-profile artists such as Patti Smith and Keith Richards. She has such a powerful voice that her songs always bring me back. I hope people will remember her as the great artist she was, though I hate saying the word ‘was.’
Spector had also survived a four year abusive marriage to Phil Spector. Spector was also a producer of The Ronettes. Her memoir describes her fear of being killed by Phil Spector when she fled their house barefoot in 1972. This [was a time] when people weren’t even talking about domestic abuse. She survived, and she lived a full life. She’s a strong woman and you could always hear that strength in her voice.
I was thrilled when she agreed in 1987 to sing a song that I co-wrote with Desmond Child: “Love on a Rooftop.” When we wrote it I knew that I wanted her to do the WoooahsThat was something she only could accomplish. “I invented those,” she once told me. What do you know? She did. Ronnie Spector does these songs better than anyone. It was amazing that Ronnie Spector sang one of mine songs.
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Last year, I heard that a biopic was being made about Spector’s life and I told her that I would love to do a song—to honor her. Her request was for me too. She told me I could tell her how many times I’d been nominated but not won an Oscar.
She’s one of the best singers ever in pop music—a voice of her time and a voice for all time. That’s a fact.
—As told to Sanya Mansoor
A version of this article appeared in the Jan. 31—Feb. 7 issues of TIME