I can name this tune in three notes.
Well, three drum beats, to be exact.
The most iconic intro in rock music history is actually four beats from Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine. But you know that after three hours.
If you haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about the Ronettes’ 1963 hit “Be My Baby.”
Lead singer Ronnie Spector (known as Veronica Bennett when the song was recorded) died Wednesday at age 78. It’s a loss to the world of rock, pop and R&B, not so much because of the Ronettes’ wealth of success, but more because of the era than Spector and his music – this song in particular – represent.
It was a time before JFK was assassinated, before the Beatles took over the music world, and no one had a clue what a hippie was. In short, the 60s had not quite understood that the 50s were over. Things seemed a little more innocent, less complicated.
Ronettes producer (and later Ronnie’s husband) Phil Spector produced the hits with his “wall of sound” approach that is evident in this song and so many others.
It’s just such a great song, and a number of people should be credited for it – Phil Spector, Blaine, the rest of the Wrecking Crew. But the voice of Ronnie (she is the only one of the Ronnettes actually present on the track) prevails. It took a good set of pipes to rise above the sounds that Phil was summoned from all these instruments.
And let’s go back to that drumbeat for a second. It’s so good that I found an article today on “30 Songs That Use Hal Blaine’s ‘Be My Baby’ Drum Rhythm.” And this list includes some of the biggest names in artists who have followed. Imitation is the most sincere of flattery.
It amazed me today to learn that it was never a No. 1 song. It stalled at No. 2 on October 12, 1963, with “sugar shack” by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs. If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone. I’ve certainly heard it before, but it’s not “Be My Baby” – kind of like “Christopher Cross “beating “The Wall” for a Grammy.
But we know which lives on.
So sit back and enjoy the video below. Or “I love you baby” Where “(The Best Part of) The Breakup” Where greatest performance of a Christmas song ever recorded. Or maybe that Eddie Money hit that featured her.
Whichever way you choose to remember her, enjoy some good bits. RIP, Ronnie.