Last week we mourned the death of the legendary Ronnie Spector, the lead singer of The Ronettes. While Ronnie had more than a few hits over the years, she forever attained immortality with her breakthrough smash “Be My Baby”. It is perhaps the greatest song ever written, a position claimed by one of the foremost authorities on the matter, Brian Wilson.
When the news of Ronnie’s passing first broke, I responded in a way I imagine most people did: putting “Be My Baby” on repeat. The music may be the epitome of Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” technique, but the reason why we can listen to this song on endless repeat is mainly due to Ronnie’s impassioned vocals, and her ability to convey all the turbulent emotions of young love in a way that never grows old. Somehow with each listen there’s something new to be found, a new wrinkle or detail to appreciate.
And so it was after a few listens this past weekend, after hundreds over the years, that I was able to once again find something previously hidden to me in the song that added a whole new level of appreciation to the effort in crafting the song. It was a subtle connection between the lyrics and music, a connection so subtle it was probably unintentional.
The song opens with Hal Blaine’s classic drum beat, a pattern so recognizable you’ve heard it copied dozens of times over the years by other artists. You probably don’t even need to see it typed out, you already have it playing in your head:
Boom. BoomBoom. Thwak.
By alternating between the one snare/three snare hits, he creates a push-and-pull that adds tension and variety to the beat. It is not revolutionary by any means, but it gets the job done. However, this past weekend, I realized there was a connection of the one/three pattern in the lyrics as well.
For every kiss you give me [Thwak]
I’ll give you three [Crk Crk Crk]
The lyrics even match the push-and-pull of the music! The two complement each other so well that it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t a planned pairing. Even there’s a good chance it’s merely a coincidence based on a mistake, I’ll forever prefer to think otherwise.
Who knows what treasures the next hundred listens will unearth. But thanks to Ronnie, every single one will be as enjoyable as the first.
Been a while. Interesting analysis!
Sorry, I got stuck in traffic. For a few years.
On a different note, I want to make sure you knew of the existence of this documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbunvLdbWxA
I enjoyed it, but it has a bit of an odd structure that could be irritating (but upon consideration, makes perfect sense considering the subject).