Personalities | Mick Ronson | Bowie’s Backing | Guitar Heroes

In the 25 years before cancer ended his life at the age of 46, Mick Ronson (1946–93) became a guitar icon through his seminal work as part of David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars band, work that would lead to production and performance assignments with artists such as Ian Hunter, Lou Reed and Morrissey, as well as American roots rockers such as Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp.

Ronson played in local bands throughout the mid-1960s in his native Hull and endured a failed stint trying to establish himself in London before returning to Hull and joining The Rats. In 1970, former Rat John Cambridge came back to Hull to recruit Ronson as guitarist in David Bowie’s backing band. The band, originally called The Hype, at points included producer Tony Visconti and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Ronson’s flair for arranging and playing grounded Bowie as he developed his outsized persona on the early albums The Man Who Sold The World (1970), Hunky Dory (1971) and The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972).

Ronson’s playing and arranging brought him the producer’s hat in 1972 for Lou Reed’s Transformer with Bowie, as well as the unlikely leap to work on American country-rock group Pure Prairie League’s Bustin’ Out (1972), on which Ronson contributed string-ensemble arrangements along with guitar and vocals. Ronson played on Bowie’s Aladdin Sane and Pin Ups (both 1973), but left Bowie after the ‘Farewell Concert’ in 1973. In the ensuing years, Ronson released three solo albums. The first, Slaughter On 10th Avenue (1974), featured Ronson’s best-known solo piece, ‘Only After Dark’.

After a brief stint with Mott The Hoople, Ronson worked steadily with former Hoople singer Ian Hunter. Ronson was also part of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue and worked on records by Elton John, T-Bone Burnett and Roger McGuinn. His last high-profile live performance was his appearance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992.

For his work with Bowie, Ronson favoured a stripped-paint Gibson Les Paul and Marshall amp. Thereafter, he often used a Fender Telecaster. Ronson died from liver cancer in April 1993.

Essential Recordings

David Bowie: The Man Who Sold The World

David Bowie: Hunky Dory

David Bowie: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

Solo: Slaughter On 10th Avenue

Personalities | Francis Rossi & Rick Parfitt | More Than the Status Quo | Guitar Heroes


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