The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson said the song, “Be My Baby,” was “The greatest record ever produced.” He added, “I felt like I wanted to try to do something as good as that song and I never did. I’ve stopped trying.” Now that’s high praise.
We lost Ronnie Spector this week. She was still a teenager when she flew from Spanish Harlem to Los Angeles to record with the up-and-coming producer George Spector in 1963. She remembers singing the song in the studio, looking at him, and being in love.
But the song, and people like Wilson’s obsession, is about way more than a one-dimensional hit. It’s about love on the surface, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a core of control, power, and femininity.
Ronnie Spector is taking the lead, not being handed it. The song is about claiming what she wants. She was telling the man in her life to be HER “little baby.” To top it off, we never find out if the mystery man even accepts her advances. The song is seething with tension and desire. It’s a masterpiece.
Take some time and really listen to the song. Ronnie Spector, thank you.
Ps. check out “Still Tingling Spines, 50 Years Later” by Marc Spitz at the NYT, 2013.