A British filmmaker hopes a new documentary on the life of the late guitarist Mick Ronson will shed light on the seemingly forgotten artist who helped David Bowie become a superstar. Ronson died of liver cancer at the age of 46 in 1993.
Bowie, who would later succumb to the same illness in 2016 at the age of 69, provided a voiceover commentary on the life of his beloved collaborator and sidekick before his death, who can be heard in Jon’s film. Brewer “Beside Bowie”.
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Brewer, a close friend of the two artists, told Fox News that Bowie struggled with the loss of Ronson, whose contributions to music have gone un-celebrated despite his work with Morrissey, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Mott the Hoople and most notably, the Bowie group Spiders From Mars.
âDavid didn’t know what to do,â Brewer said. “He wasn’t able to handle it allâ¦ He got even more confused about how to recognize the gift Mick Ronson had given David or added to David’s giftsâ¦ Unfortunately David passed away before the end of the movie. . “
The film, which also features interviews with Bowie’s ex-wife Angie Bowie, as well as Queen’s Roger Taylor, Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, Bowie’s publicist Cherry Vanilla, Mott the Hoople‘s Ian Hunter and the late Reed. , explores how Ronson, who joined the Mars Spiders in the late 1960s, would improve on some of the most iconic songs in music history.
Ronson, a classically trained pianist who studied violin as a child, helped transform the songs Bowie wrote on the acoustic guitar into theatrical hymns through arrangement and production.
With his first arrangement for strings, Ronson brought 1971’s “Life on Mars” to life. His contributions as an arranger can also be heard in “Hunky Dory”, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars “, as well as” Aladdin Sane “.
However, as the group sold out and quickly rose to fame, Ronson’s bank account barely grew. Brewer pointed out that Ronson didn’t get any credit for songwriting or arranging on any of Bowie’s early albums.
“Mick was advised not to worry about it and David not to worry about it,” Brewer explained. âFor Mick Ronson, it was a partnership. Mick would never lift a finger to complain or [bring an] accusation against David … [And] David didn’t know how to deal with it because it was getting worseâ¦ David respected Mick Ronson a lot and felt he was the unsung hero.
Bowie would later shock fans when he abruptly withdrew his alter ego in 1973 during a sold-out concert at the Hammersmith Odeon Theater in London. Brewer believed that Bowie’s frustration with knowing that Ronson wasn’t rightly credited for their success, as well as his eagerness to explore a different musical direction, had contributed to the end of Stardust.
âDavid didn’t know how to handle the problem that had been created by the industry,â Brewer said. âMick Ronson co-wrote most of these songs, but as a writer his managers and editors told him, ‘Arrangers don’t get publishing credit.’ And David followed him.
âBut he struggled, struggled for yearsâ¦ He wanted to fix it, but didn’t know how to do itâ¦ [And] when David went to Hammersmith and said it was overâ¦ he didn’t mean it was the end of his career. He didn’t want to continue playing the role of Ziggy Stardust for years and years to come. Ziggy Stardust was a fantastic character, but he wanted to stop that role and move on.
Ronson tried to pursue a solo career, but reportedly lived paycheck to paycheck when that project didn’t skyrocket. Brewer said that despite Ronson’s talent, his character was completely different from Bowie’s.
âMick Ronson was an incredibly simple person who was raised to have crisp, crisp white shirts when he went out and worked as a gardener, but basically in his heart he was a musician,â Brewer said. âI think David Bowie was probably born to be an artist.
âSo you have two people who were so different. Both were brought up in completely different parts of the UK. David has always been a star and a leader. Mick Ronson was the man who drove the performance in the recording He was the engine that started him and pushed him forward.
Yet Ronson never stopped pursuing his passion for music. Ronson performed and arranged Lou Reed’s 1972 album “Transformer”, including the iconic hit “Walk on the Wild Side”. In 1974, he joined Mott the Hoople and went on tour with Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. He also arranged John Mellencamp’s 1982 hit “Jack & Diane”. In 1992 he produced Morrissey’s “Your Arsenal”.
But Ronson never forgot his friend. Brewer said Ronson and Bowie worked together from 1990 to 1991.
âMick talked to David all the time to find a way to work together,â Brewer added. “David spoke a lot more than we know to Mickâ¦ And just as they got back together, Mick passed away.”
Ronson’s last solo album, “Heaven and Hull”, released in 1994, will also unite the two artists before his death.
Brewer insisted that even after Ronson was diagnosed with cancer, he continued to work.
âMick said, ‘I have cancer, and it can’t be cured,’â Brewer said. âMick was going through these episodes of radiation and therapy and he just gave up. He said, ‘This is going to kill me faster than anything.’ [But] he continued to record. He recorded the day before his death. Weak as he was. And then he lay down and didn’t wake up … [But] he never stopped. He just continuedâ¦ But there just wasn’t enough time.
Bowie, who was devastated by Ronson’s death, was determined to tell Ronson’s story over the years. Brewer said the documentary began a few years before Bowie died.
âWhen I got the voiceover, I immediately realized that he had given the chapters for the documentary,â Brewer said. âDavid fought for years, fought for years to find a way to tell this story. That’s why I believe he gave us his words.
âBeside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Storyâ is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.