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Mick Ronson 1945-1993

July 1993
by n/a

Mick Ronson, who died of liver cancer aged 47, on April 30, was a man who stood on the right hand of various gods, greater and lesser, for more than 20 years, unobtrusively subsuming his own ego to help them solve musical problems and simply make their work better.

Born to Mormon family in Hull, he was a multi-instrumentalist by the time he left school. He moved obscurely through local bands called The Mariners, The Rats and Ronno until sessions with respected fellow Yorkshireman Michael Chapman led, via producers Gus Dudgeon and Tony Visconti, to a meeting with David Bowie in 1970.

The band he joined was called Hype, but soon Bowie changed the name to The Spiders From Mars and for the next three years, much history ensued. Although, as a four-square Tyke, Ronson was always felt to be ill at ease with the requisite glam and guitar blowjob routines on stage, his guitar playing was a crucial element on the Spiders' albums The Man Who Sold The World, Hunky Dory, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust + The Spiders From Mars and Aladdin Sane.

After Bowie's melodramatic dissolution of The Spiders at Hammersmith Odeon, Ronson did take a brief swing at solo stardom with the Slaughter On Tenth Avenue and Play Don't Worry albums before finally accepting his natural and widely valued role as help meet to the mighty.

Already, in 1972, he'd played guitar on and arranged Lou Reed's Transformer (including Walk On The Wild Side), but post-spiders he moved on through the rock encyclopedia. He toured with Bob Dylan (the Rolling Thunder Revue), Ian Hunter (the Hunter-Ronson Band) and Van Morrison, and produced Roger McGuinn (Cardiff Rose), New York Doll David Johansen and, last year, Morrissey.

Although his illness was diagnosed as long ago as 1991 and his imminent demise predicted, he carried on working non-stop. In recent months he'd been playing on Bowie's Black Tie White Noise, while also working steadily on a long-deferred third 'solo' album - in fact crammed with stars like Chrissie Hynde, Joe Elliot, John Mellencamp and Bowie himself, who, in effect, wanted to pay their last respects in the way that would mean most to Ronson. The album, which was nearly complete, is likely to be released in the autumn.

Ronson, who was still a member of the Mormon Church, had a 15-year-old daughter. At the time of his death he was separated from his wife, Suzy, who he first knew when she was Bowie's hairdresser.

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