Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story (2017)

I am greatly looking forward to this documentary on the greatly underrated guitarist and arranger Mick Ronson. The fact that David Bowie was very involved in the making of this documentary possibly attests to Bowie’s sense of complicity (however unintentional) in Ronson’s financial struggles. From FNC:

A British filmmaker is hoping a new documentary on the life of late guitarist Mick Ronson will shed light on the seemingly forgotten artist who helped David Bowie achieve superstardom. Ronson died of liver cancer at age 46 in 1993.

Bowie, who would later succumb to the same illness in 2016 at age 69, provided voice-over commentary on the life of his beloved collaborator and sidekick before his passing, which can be heard in Jon Brewer’s film “Beside Bowie.”…

Ronson, a classically trained pianist who studied violin as a child, helped transform the songs Bowie wrote on acoustic guitar into theatrical anthems through arrangements and production.

With his first string arrangement, 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 band was selling out arena shows and rapidly achieving fame, Ronson’s bank account barely grew. Brewer pointed out Ronson didn’t get songwriting or arranging credits on any of Bowie’s early albums.

“Mick was being advised not to worry about it and David was being advised not to worry about it,” Brewer explained. “As far as Mick Ronson was concerned, it was a partnership. Mick would never lift a finger of complaint or [bring an] accusation toward David… [And] David didn’t know how to deal with it because it got worse… David greatly respected Mick Ronson and felt he was the unsung hero.”

Bowie would later shock fans when he abruptly retired his performing alter ego in 1973 at a sold-out concert in London’s Hammersmith Odeon Theatre. Brewer believed Bowie’s frustration in knowing Ronson wasn’t getting rightfully credited for their success, along with his eagerness to explore a different musical direction, contributed to the end of Stardust.

“David didn’t know how to handle the problem that had been created by the industry,” said Brewer. “Mick Ronson co-wrote most of those songs, but as a writer, his managers and publishers told him, ‘Arrangers don’t get publishing credit.’ And David went along with it.

This entry was posted in Film, Music. Bookmark the permalink.