|Ronnie Spector, who released her “Best Christmas Ever’’ CD this month, has been linked to holiday music for decades. (Debra Greenfield)|
Spector's in the Christmas spirit
With a new CD and a Dec. 25 show, the '60s icon is set to celebrate
For so many generations, she’s the voice of Christmas pop songs, the one that sang so sweetly about Frosty the Snowman and spying on her mommy kissing Santa Claus.
It turns out Ronnie Spector relishes being so closely associated with Christmas, dating back to the holiday standards she recorded with the Ronettes in the early 1960s. The beloved rock icon’s Christmas shows are a seasonal staple, and this year she brings the party to the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut on Christmas Day, her only New England performance.
From her Connecticut home, Spector spoke to us about her new album (“Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever’’), her legendary sway over other musicians, and why she should have married Keith Richards.
Q. Were you the kind of kid who grew up loving Christmastime?
A. You asked me the right question. Let me tell you: I loved Christmas so much since I was, like, 4 or 5 years old. In September I started thinking about Christmas. My birthday is in August, so right after my birthday, I would said, “It’s time to start getting ready for Christmas.’’ My father and mother would say, “Ronnie, it’s only September. You got four months. We can’t get the pine tree yet because by the time Christmas comes, it’ll be dead!’’
Q. So many people associate you with Christmas songs, but what are some of your own favorites?
A. Outside of my own? To be honest, the Phil Spector Christmas album [1963’s “A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector’’]. I play that every year. It gets me right in the mood, and I’ve only got three songs on there. My kids love it, too.
Q. Keith Richards had some very poignant and candid things to say about you in his new autobiography. Were you aware of his feelings for you?
A. Oh, yeah. He lives 15 minutes away from me [in Connecticut], and I go to his house and record songs in the studio in his basement. As a matter of fact, he sent me a copy of his book, and it says on it: “It’s a love affair.’’ And we have had a love affair for 40 years, but not the kind you guys are thinking about. I said to Keith, “Too bad we didn’t marry because we would have worked out better.’’ It would have worked out better for me. And our kids would have had amazing hair! I had this black thick hair, and he had this black thick hair. I should have married either Keith or John Lennon. I didn’t get the chance because I was always in the studio with Phil [Spector, her ex-husband].
Q. I have to confess that I kept marveling at what great hair you have when I saw your show last year.
A. Everybody always talks about my hair. I love that. I have tons of it — you want some of mine? I used to tell my ex-husband [Phil] that. Because, you know, he had all the toupees and wouldn’t go out if he couldn’t get them on straight. I could go on forever.
Q. One of my favorite parts of your show is when you do an Amy Winehouse cover [“Back to Black’’]. She’s talked a lot about your influence on her, but do you hear your legacy in her music?
A. I went over to England two years ago, and in every article about her, she mentioned my name. “I wanted to look like Ronnie. I wanted to sing like Ronnie.’’ I love her voice, she’s got a great voice. She just didn’t get the hairstyle right. She wears it crooked and tilted to the side. I wanted to say, “Amy, just make it straight up. You’ll be a Ronette. You’ll be fabulous.’’
Q. You’ve been a muse to many musicians over the years, from Brian Wilson to Billy Joel to Joey Ramone. What is it about your story that inspires them?
A. It’s a combination of how Phil recorded me and the songs we picked together and the love affair we had. I did love him. I sang my heart out for him on “Be My Baby.’’ I did all of my songs personally for him. I think that’s what brought out the best of me.
James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.