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This Day In Music: The Supremes

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May 30, 1965 The Number One Cut On The R&B Chart was, “Back In My Arms Again”, by The Supremes. It was their 5th number one (pop) song to date.

Estelle Bennett (July 22nd 1941-Feb 11th 2009)RIP

The RonettesEstelle Bennett July 22nd 1941-Feb 11th 2009 The Fabulous Ronettes

A Life of Troubles Followed a Singer’s Burst of Fame: The Estelle Bennet Story

From left, Nedra Talley, Estelle Bennett, Phil Spector and Ronnie Bennett in a Los Angeles recording studio in 1963.

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Published: February 16, 2009

She was the quiet Ronette, the one people called the prettiest, the one who was content to remain in the shadow of her younger sister, Ronnie, because even in the shadow there’s still some spotlight.

For a few years in the mid-1960s Estelle Bennett lived a girl-group fairy tale, posing for magazine covers with her fellow Ronettes and dating the likes of George Harrison and Mick Jagger. Along with her sister and their cousin Nedra Talley, she helped redefine rock ’n’ roll femininity.

The Ronettes delivered their songs’ promises of eternal puppy love in the guise of tough vamps from the streets of New York. Their heavy mascara, slit skirts and piles of teased hair suggested both sex and danger, an association revived most recently by Amy Winehouse.

But Ms. Bennett’s death last week at 67 revealed a post-fame life of illness and squalor that was little known even to many of the Ronettes’ biggest fans. In her decades away from the public eye she struggled with anorexia and schizophrenia, and at times she had also been homeless, said her daughter, Toyin Hunter.

“I want to know who my mother was,” Ms. Hunter, 37, said in an interview. “From the time I was born she suffered with mental illness; I never really got to know Estelle in a good mental state.”

Those who knew Ms. Bennett in her healthier days portray her as gentle and intelligent, and as playing a critical part in the development of the Ronettes’ style. The eldest of the group, she worked at Macy’s and attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, and the look she helped devise for the group was all superlatives: bigger, badder and sexier than anybody. Racial ambiguity lent an exotic element: the Bennett sisters had black, American Indian and Irish blood; Ms. Talley was black, Indian and Puerto Rican.

“We called them the bad girls of the ’60s,” said the singer Darlene Love, who met the Ronettes in 1962, a year before they became famous with “Be My Baby.” “They had the really, really short skirts and they had big, big, big hair. Most of the black entertainers of the ’60s didn’t look like that, but they wanted to be separate from everybody else.”

By the time they met Phil Spector and began recording with him in 1963, the Ronettes had their look precisely calibrated. That August “Be My Baby” went to No. 2, and the Ronettes were instant stars. When they toured Britain in 1964, the Rolling Stones were an opening act.

But even in the early days there were signs that Estelle was fragile. When their grandmother died in 1959, Estelle was shattered, said her cousin, now known as Nedra Talley Ross.

“She was going to buy Mama knee warmers,” Ms. Talley Ross said, “and I remember Estelle being so devastated — screaming, like she would never go on. Just screaming for this thing that would never get done.”

After the Ronettes broke up, in 1966, and Ronnie married Mr. Spector, in 1968, Estelle was lost, Ms. Talley Ross said. She made several failed attempts at a solo career, and when Ronnie Spector, who divorced Mr. Spector in 1974, formed a new version of the Ronettes in the early ’70s it did not include either of her former band mates. (Ms. Spector did not respond to messages left for her.)

Meanwhile, Ms. Bennett was gradually becoming more ill. When she brought her infant daughter to visit, Ms. Talley Ross said, she slept straight through the baby’s crying. Not long after, Ms. Bennett was hospitalized with anorexia, and her grip on reality continued to loosen. In recent years, Ms. Hunter said, she sometimes wandered the streets of New York, telling people that she would be singing with the Ronettes in a jazz club.

“Estelle had such an extraordinary life,” Ms. Talley Ross said. “To have the fame, and all that she had at an early age, and for it all to come to an end abruptly. Not everybody can let that go and then go on with life.”

In 1988 the Ronettes sued Mr. Spector for back royalties, and the suit dragged on for 14 years. Part of the case was dismissed, but the three women won the right to some royalties, and according to Jonathan Greenfield, Ms. Spector’s husband, they received “in excess of $1 million.” After lawyers’ fees, Ms. Hunter said, each woman took home about $100,000. Ms. Talley Ross said the figure was a little higher.

During the litigation Ms. Love was called as a witness, and one day at court she saw Estelle.

“She didn’t remember me,” Ms. Love said. “They cleaned her up and made her look as well as possible. She wore white gloves. She looked the best she could for somebody who lived on the street. It broke my heart.”

Her daughter and her cousin said they also helped her to look her best for the Ronettes’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two years ago. They were worried that the ceremony would overwhelm her, so one of Ms. Spector’s current backup singers performed in Ms. Bennett’s stead. But before the concert Ms. Bennett did give a brief acceptance speech.

“I would just like to say thank you very much for giving us this award,” she said. “I’m Estelle of the Ronettes. Thank you.”

 

The Supremes: The Final Concert

Diana Ross with Boston Celtics’ Bill Russell at The Supremes’ farewell performance at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, January 14, 1970.the supremes last concert

Tameka ” Tiny” Cottle: Happy Birthday!

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The Marvettes: Motown’s Finest!

july 8 1971On July 8, 1961 The Marvelettes signed with Motown, bringing “Please Mr. Postman” with them!  By December, the song – their debut single – became The Marvelettes’ first No. 1 on the pop charts. Listen here:  http://goo.gl/kKhJZ

Diana & Flo: Supremes Best!

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The Real Surpremes!

Supreme Mama’s…Mrs. Ernestine Ross..Mrs. Lurlee Ballard..Mrs. Johnnie Mae Wilson  🙂1004413_334123413385944_479830272_n

Motown Revue:The Early Years!

Berry Gordy’s Motortown Revue. From left: Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Eddie Kendricks, Elbridge Bryant, Uriel Jones, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, Diana Ross, Robert Bullock, Patrice Gordy, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson.

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Florence Ballard: Happy 70th Birthday!

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Thomas ” Hollywood” Henderson: The Original Cocaine Cowboy

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Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson who is a former Dallas Cowboy (#56). He was so flamboyant, he was driven to practice in a limousine wearing a full length fur. NFL legend Lawrence Taylor chose #56 out of respect for Henderson.

One night, Henderson and teammates caught a show featuring the Temptations and the Pointer Sisters. Henderson went backstage and traded numbers with Anita Pointer.

Later, he spent the night with her. Anita introduced him to Dom Perignon champagne.

The second night I spent at her hotel a couple of her friends came by and they had some cocaine. One guy was talking like a connoisseur and he laid out his lines. The stuff was shining. It almost looked like glass. Chopped up real easy. He even had gold straws. He said they were 24-carat. After snorting it, I noticed I stayed up a lot longer. Anita and I did a lot of talking and lovemaking.”

After I came off the road, I flew down to L.A. and hooked up with Anita. She picked me up in a limo and we went up to Dennis Edwards’s house. He was dating her sister Ruth. Later that night, we attended the Grammys.

Later in the week when the sister’s went on the road, I stayed at Dennis’s house. Dennis used to lock himself in his room for 14, 15 hours a day. If you wanted to see Dennis you had to see him in his room. I was only doing a line or two a day so I didn’t have cause to go in there very often.

Dennis even set me up with a woman. Dennis was locked up in his room so she spent the whole day with me. We did some coke, played around and had some fun. Making love to some stranger in Hollywood. No big deal. This was L.A., everywhere you looked there were beautiful women.

Anita returned and wasn’t home three hours when she got this angry sad look on her face. “How could you do this?” she said. “How could you have this girl over here and spend the night?” I lied my way out of it.

I couldn’t believe Dennis had snitched on me. He’d set me up and then ratted me out. I guess he was in the Pointer Sisters inner circle, he was closer to them than I was. Maybe he was trying to be a big brother and protect them.

A few days later, Anita and I took a limo to Richard Pryor’s house.

The butler was circulating with a platter of cocaine. Frankie Crocker was sitting beside me.

Pryor went into the kitchen and came out with a plate of barbecue sauce and chicken. He took a chicken leg, dipped it deep in the sauce and stuck it in his hair. Then he smeared it all in his face, under his chin and near his ears.

A few minutes later, a movie screen came down in the living room. The lights dimmed. Up on the screen was Richard Pryor with an erection. An Oriental girl, a white girl and a black girl were catering to his every need. One girl would work him for a while and his eyes looked like they were going to explode. Another would take her best shot and he would give his. They were doing some real freaky stuff. It was wild, Richard was nuts!

Motown Revue: Traveling All-Stars!

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Dawn Robinson: Solo Diva!

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Nicole Scherzinger:Chateau Marmont With a Friend – W Hollywood 5/4

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T-Boz: Happy Birthday!

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Rochelle Wise: Mixed Edition

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Rochelle Wiseman is English-born  and of mixed race (Sierra Leonean Father/British Mother

Beyonce: Always Bet On Black!

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Victoria Beckham: Happy Birthday!

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Maxxi B: Shadow Boxing

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The Supremes: Girl Power!

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On This Day In Music: In 1964, The Supremes record ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ at Motown Studios in Detroit.

The song would become the first US No.1 single. Originally founded as the Primettes in Detroit, Michigan, in 1959, the Supremes were the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts and are, to date, America’s most successful vocal group with 12 No.1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

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