Billy Joel on Thursday mourned the death a day earlier of singer Ronnie Spector, whose 1960s song "Be My Baby" influenced his own hit "Say Goodbye to Hollywood."
"The great Ronnie Spector has died. So many faces in and out of my life…. ," Joel said in a statement to Newsday, quoting a line from his song. "We mourn her passing."
In the 2004 book "In Their Own Words: Songwriters Talk about the Creative Process," Joel recalled that in "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" — a track on his 1976 album "Turnstiles" that became a No. 17 hit single with a live version five years later — "I was thinking of Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes when I did it. And she actually ended up doing it," recording her own version with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band in 1977.
At university lectures, Hicksville-raised Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Joel reportedly has described "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" as an homage to both "Be My Baby" and the famed "wall of sound" heard in that and other works produced by Phil Spector, whom Ronettes frontwoman Veronica "Ronnie" Bennett would later marry and divorce.
Joel in his song "pays homage to Ronnie's vibrato, emulating it when he sings the ... [word] ‘boulevard,' " according to Songfacts.com, which adds he "met Ronnie a few times over the years, but only after he wrote the song." Spector told Record Collector magazine in 1999 that "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" "was written specially for me by Billy Joel, and it really said what I was doing, leaving Hollywood." Joel has described the song as "all about putting L.A. behind me" and returning to New York.
Meanwhile, fellow Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Joan Jett, who has lived in Long Beach since the 1970s, tweeted Wednesday, "Our dear friend Ronnie Spector, has passed. She was the sweetest person you could ever know. And her mark on rock and roll is indelible."
Spector, also an inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, died Wednesday at age 78. In addition to the 1963 No. 2 hit "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes, Spector sang lead on "Baby, I Love You," "Walking in the Rain" and other hits, and continued a fruitful career into the late 2010s.