(CN) – Ronnie Spector claims Phil Spector, who is her ex-husband as well as a convicted murderer and the pioneer of the lushly layered “wall of sound” production technique, owes royalties to the Ronettes and other singers.
Ronnie Spector, whose real name is Veronica Bennett, joined the other two Ronettes and fellow 1960s singers Darlene Love and Fanita James in a New York State Supreme Court royalties dispute the women say persists despite two lengthy rounds of litigation that resulted in court orders forcing Spector and his companies to cough up what they owed the bands.
In 1963, Ronnie Spector, then Ronnie Greenfield, her sister, Estelle Bennett, who died in 2009, and their cousin, Nedra Talley-Ross, signed a five-year deal with Phil Spector’s label, Philles Records.
Phil Spector wrote and produced many of the Ronettes’ songs, including their biggest hit, “Be My Baby,” the lawsuit states.
The agreement required The Ronettes to perform exclusively for Philles and handed ownership of their music over to the label, according to the complaint. The agreement also laid out a royalties schedule, directing Phil Spector to pay them 3 percent of 90 percent of retail sales, the band says. Phil Spector and his companies were supposed to make the payments twice per year, according to the complaint.
The Ronettes recorded “several dozen” songs, including “Be My Baby,” which made millions, before disbanding in 1967, according to the lawsuit.
At some point, Phil Spector’s other companies, Phil Spector Records Inc., Phil Spector Enterprises Inc., Philles Records Inc., Back to Mono Music Corporation, replaced Philles Records.
Darlene Love sang on her own and also performed with 1960s bands The Blossoms, The Crystals and The Soxx.
Fanita James says she performed with Love in The Blossoms and The Soxx.
Love and James signed on with Philles in 1962, the lawsuit states.
Love, James and the former Ronettes members claim Phil Spector has made millions by releasing dozens of re-issued greatest hits and Christmas-themed albums featuring their music.
But the Ronettes claim it took 15 years of litigation, which finally resolved in 2006, to get anything more than their initial, collective $15,000 advance.
The New York State Supreme Court granted each of the three Ronettes a lump-sum payment of past-due royalties and interest, and ordered Phil Spector and his companies to continue paying their royalties twice per year, according to the complaint.
Love and James say they also sued Phil Spector for royalties. A jury awarded love past due royalties, while James settled out of court, according to the complaint.
But the women say Phil Spector and his companies still didn’t pay their royalties.
So the Ronettes filed a joint complaint with Love, James and three other former members of The Crystals in 2008.
The singers say they settled that lawsuit in 2009, again winning lump-sum judgments and orders detailing the payment of future royalties.
But Phil Spector’s wife, Rachelle Spector, who has been sending the singers their royalty statements since Jan. 1, 2009, allegedly mucked up the accounting and withheld $150,000.
In one instance, the accounting sheets show that Rachelle Spector paid about one-ninth of the amount the Ronettes were supposed to get, the women claim.
And Rachelle Spector refused to hand over more detailed accounting records, the lawsuit states.
The singers demand the missing royalties, plus $1 million in punitive damages.
Ronnie Spector was married to Phil Spector from 1968 to 1974. In her autobiography, she claimed he kept her virtually imprisoned in their mansion during the marriage, and sabotaged her career by forbidding her to accept invitations to tour with The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
She claims she finally left him by breaking the glass out of a sliding glass door and fleeing barefooted.
Phil Spector is currently serving 19 years to life for shooting actress Lana Clarkson to death in his Alhambra, Calif. home.
Anne Salisbury and Gregory Vidler of Guzov Ofsink in New York are representing the singers.