Ronnie Spector invades the Berkshires

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Ronnie Spector admits she doesn't remember a time when she wasn't singing.

"When I was five years old," she recalled in a recent interview, "I used to stand on the coffee table in our living room and entertain my family. A little later, I used to stand in the lobby of my grandma's pre-war building [in New York City] and sing. The lobby had a great echo from the tiles on the floor. It was the reverberation from that lobby that told me I could do this [sing professionally]."

Spector, who has been performing professionally for more decades than she cares to count, is one of rock and roll's legendary figures. A member of both the Vocal Groups Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Spector began her career as the leader of one of rock's first female Doo-Wop groups, the Ronettes.

"When I was 12, I started a singing group with my sister Estelle and our cousins," she said.

Spector's grandmother suggested "The Darling Sisters," but Spector pointed out that not everyone in the group was a sister.

"I took my musical career very seriously," she said with a laugh.

Eventually, the group became known as The Ronettes.

The Ronettes were a popular local group in New York City in the early 1960s. They began enjoying considerable commercial success when they began working with legendary producer Phil Spector, He and Ronnie were married in 1968, staying together until 1974. She has remarried, but retains Spector's name for professional purposes.

Phil Spector's Wall of Sound production, coupled with the harmonies of the Ronnettes, proved a powerful combination. The group had a string of hits, including "Be My Baby," "Baby I Love You," "Walking in the Rain," and a host of others.

"I am lucky enough to have recorded a bunch of songs that will outlive me," said Spector, who is performing Saturday evening at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. "It sounds spooky, but it's true. When I tour Europe and overseas at venues where most of the audience doesn't even speak English, they'll still sing the works to 'Be My Baby' and 'Walking in the Rain.' It's pretty amazing."

The Ronettes broke up in1968, and since then, Spector has worked and collaborated with just about every rock artist under the sun. Her duet with Southside Johnny on "You Mean So Much To Me" on Southside's debut album in 1978 was a big hit, as was her duet with Eddie Money on "Take Me Home Tonight" two years later. Since then, Spector has had a full career as a performer and record producer.

She is presently touring in support of her 2016 album, "English Heart." The disc is a reworking of songs from the 1960s British Invasion. Not exactly covers, she said, but songs with her own spin on them. It peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard charts, proving that Spector can still sell records.

She admitted that while the travel portion of touring is draining, the performing part is not.

"Every single second I spend on stage," she said. "I love. The bus rides, the plane trips, the packing and unpacking, the hotels, that's all work. I just got back from a six-hour plane ride and trust me, I didn't enjoy it. But onstage, I just love it. I wish I didn't love it so much. But it's like a disease. And the only cure for me is to be up there, singing rock and roll."


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