Ronnie Spector and Crystals singer La La Brooks were mere teenagers when they first met while performing in New York during Murray the K’s shows in the Sixties. Throughout the decades that followed they remained close, performing together as recently as 2015 at a private event in New Orleans. Rolling Stone spoke with a shaken Brooks shortly after news broke of Spector’s death.
“Ronnie was a hoot, like a firecracker. She was so sweet, but she was so more advanced than we were,” she says of their early days. While Brooks was the youngest of the two at age 13, the Crystals were already established and they met before the Ronettes had formed. So they learned from each other as their careers grew.
Brooks recalls Spector and the soon-to-be Ronettes served as backup dancers for Murray the K at the time, and they had a fashionable style that stood out. “They had the look for show business,” she explains, and soon both groups were making a musical mark. “With ‘Be My Baby’ and ‘Walking in the Rain’ and all the hits… it’s just a beautiful thing to see somebody that [was one of the] Murray the K dancers, and now we’re equal when it comes to hit records.”
Throughout the first decade of their friendship, the Crystals and the Ronettes played the Apollo regularly and they would hang out backstage. “[I often told her] ‘Ronnie, I love ‘Be My Baby’ and we used to joke about that because I’d do it every night, on my performance when I’d perform and I’d give her her props, I’d say, ‘I wish they had given it to me, but they gave it to a sweetheart’ and I’d do it every night in honor of her. And she just was a hoot. She was wild, but in a positive way.”
Their closeness spread to Spector’s extended family, who would all gather backstage and celebrate together after shows. “I think she brought all of Harlem to the dressing room,” Brooks laughs.
Though Spector reveled in performing, Brooks says her friend with a “sweet aura” also “had a shyness that maybe people weren’t aware of, but she could let loose with me or somebody that she knew. But she wasn’t like that with everybody.”
Onstage, was where Spector thrived. “She had the most unique voice. She loved Frankie Lymon, and I loved Frankie Lymon. She wanted to be a little girl Frankie Lymon and I wanted to be a little girl Frankie Lymon,” Brooks says. “I always admired her sound. I think we fed off each other because I had a kind of sound, she had a kind of sound. She just had a nice tone, a very beautiful tone to her voice and very unique.”
“Fans should know, when Ronnie hit the stage, she was the most happiest,” Brooks says. “That’s what she wanted. That’s what she loved. And that’s what gave her inspiration.”