Will you still love me tomorrow?
Because a girl can't go on writing only about pay equity and the right to choose ...
The thing about The Ronettes, and all the other (mostly) African-American girl groups of that early Rock'n'Roll era is,even on oldies shows, I never hear them except on my own iPod. And yet these ladies busted down doors not only for women artists but also for black ones. They were style icons too!
So here's my column, with links and the occasional musical interlude:
Estelle Bennett sank with barely a ripple last week.
The U.K. press gave the ex-Ronette's death at 67 major play but, in her native U.S., where she helped create the rock 'n' roll industry, there was barely a back-up chorus.
But first, a little music herstory for those of you to whom "girl groups" means Spice Girl lip-synching and Pussycat Doll-writhing.
The Ronettes, along with The Marvelettes ("Please Mr. Postman"), The Shirelles ("Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow"), The Chiffons ("He's So Fine"), The Crystals ("Da Doo Ron Ron"), The Exciters ("Doo Wah Diddy"), Martha and the Vandellas ("Love is like a Heat Wave"), The Dixie Cups ("Iko, Iko'') and so many more, owned the pop charts in the early '60s.
What's more, their songs, including those they wrote without credit, were covered by music giants such as The Beatles who had them front and centre as opening acts on their tours.
In fact, The Ronettes' huge hit "Be My Baby," produced by (now accused murderer and certifiable eccentric) Phil Spector who Svengali'd the group, influenced drumming in songs by Green Day, R.E.M., the Beach Boys, ELO and countless others.
If The Ronettes still mean nothing to you, think of the opening scene in Dirty Dancing.
As for Estelle Bennett, whose sister Veronica (Ronnie) fronted the group, and whose cousin Nedra Talley did back-up, she's the one who invented rocker girl fashion, including that big hairdo last seen on Amy Winehouse's ratty head.
Maybe it's because so many older baby boomer journalists have been laid off or taken early retirement that Bennett's death went unmarked.
Maybe it's because in this time of Britney Spears and Pussycat Dolls pop tartism, nobody takes girl acts too seriously. (And really, who can blame them?) More likely, though, the story of rock 'n' roll is written mostly by men, while commercial radio has long been dominated by men.
But let me tell you: You ain't never heard "Hound Dog" until you have heard it belted by Big Mama Thornton, who recorded it before Elvis did.
Motown pioneer Mary Wells ("My Guy'') never made it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
And yet, all these women broke ground – and not just musically.
Almost without exception – The Shangri-Las, notably – the girl group girls were African-American.
They mostly grew up in poor urban areas, and got together in their homes to put their acts together. (Unlike male singers, who could hang out on street corners Jersey Boys-style, girls had curfews.)
And yet, they still managed to break down doors and the barriers, which would pave the way on the charts for their black brothers whose music was often sanitized for white Middle American airplay by the likes of Pat Boone.
Along with the girl groups, came Motown.
Not that I am suggesting the music industry comes easier to men.
We've all seen the movies based on their lives: Walk the Line (Johnny Cash), Ray (Ray Charles), La Bamba (Ritchie Valens), The Buddy Holly Story, Great Balls of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis), etc.
But, aside from fictional froth (Dreamgirls), there are no movies, no plays, no tracking the tears and triumphs of the girl group pioneers. Come on. It's not as if Hollywood doesn't have Beyoncé's and Jennifer Hudson's talent to draw on.
Reviewing the lives and loves of The Ronettes, it's hard to miss the gold in them thar trills.
Not only did Ronnie marry Spector, but the group toured with the Stones. Estelle "dated" Mick Jagger and George Harrison. How can that miss?
But, sadly, the girls get no R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
And with that, this one is dedicated to my niece Stephanie who is getting married tomorrow night: