The guitarist, producer, and David Bowie collaborator leaves behind a dazzling lifetime of work

By Dave DiMartino
Updated May 21, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

Guitarist and producer Mick Ronson’s quiet death in London April 29, from the liver cancer he had fought for two years, was heartbreaking any way you look at it. He was only 47. He had just produced Your Arsenal, Morrissey’s best solo album yet, and had played on David Bowie’s latest, Black Tie White Noise. And with British flavor-of-the-month bands like Suede and Denim so obviously emulating the ambisexuality and glitz of the glam rock Ronson helped forge 20 years ago as part of Bowie’s first fabled back-up band, Spiders From Mars, he hadn’t been so hip in years.

Ronson, who also teamed up briefly with Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople, completed only two solo albums and was working on a third two days before he died. But the finest showcases for his piercing guitar sound — if it sounded like anyone’s, it would have to be Jeff Beck’s — continue to be Bowie’s groundbreaking The Man Who Sold the World, the 1970 album that gave birth to the glam rock sound, and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972.

Fittingly, his last live performance, at the Freddie Mercury memorial concert in April 1992, paired him with the remaining members of Queen and his former partner-in-glitter, Bowie. ”I miss him tremendously,” Bowie said. So do lots of people who don’t know it yet. Solo discography: Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, 1974; Play Don’t Worry, 1975