June 4, 1997 – Ronald Frederick “Ronnie” Lane (The Small Faces) was born on April 1, 1946 in Plaistow, a working class area in the East End of London, England.
He described his father, a truck driver, as a “saint”, who would work a long work day and then return home to nurse his wife and two sons, all of whom were diagnosed with M.S. at differing points in their lives. Doctors assured Lane as a child that the destructive disease was not necessarily inherited, although he found out later in his life that he had indeed inherited it.
After leaving school at the age of sixteen, Lane met Kenney Jones at a local pub, and they formed a group they named The Outcasts. Initially playing lead guitar, Lane quickly switched to bass. When shopping for a Harmony bass guitar, Lane visited the J60 Music Bar in Manor Park, London, where he met Steve Marriott, who was working there. Lane bought his bass guitar and went to Marriott’s house after work, where Marriott introduced him to his Motown and Stax collection. Lane and Marriott set out to form a band, recruiting friends Kenney Jones and Jimmy Winston, who switched from guitar to organ. Marriott was chosen to be the frontman and singer. (by 1966 Winston was replaced by Ian McLagan as the band’s keyboardist). The name the Small Faces came from the fact that all band members were less than 5′.5″ tall.
Lane and Marriott began writing hit song after hit song, including “Itchycoo Park”, “Tin Soldier”, Lazy Sunday” and “All or Nothing”. At least a dozen successful songs credit Lane, and their concept album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, they later evolved into one of the UK’s most successful psychedelic acts before disbanding in 1969 when Steve Marriott left to pursue a solo career.
Lane then formed the Faces with McLagan, Jones, Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart in 1969. He shared primary songwriting duties with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, composing, or co-composing, many of their best-loved pieces and taking a central role during the recording of their fourth and final album, Ooh La La, particularly, as the band’s front man Rod Stewart focused on his own solo career. Unhappy due to poor reviews of the album and Stewart’s lack of commitment, Lane quit in 1973, making his last appearance at the Sundown Theatre in Edmonton, London, on 4 June. He was replaced by Tetsu Yamauchi but tellingly, the group made no further studio albums following Lane’s departure and split in 1975. After which Ronnie, Ian and Kenney were joined by Ronnie Wood (guitar) and Rod Stewart (lead vocals), both from The Jeff Beck Group, and the new line-up was renamed Faces.
Ronnie left Faces in 1973 to form his own band, Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance. The same year they recorded the hit singles “How Come” and “The Poacher”, then the album “Anymore For Anymore”, showcasing his own blend of UK rock, folk, and country music.
During the recording of Rough Mix, (lauded as contender for best album of the year by many critics, but the label did not promote it and sales were lackluster), Lane’s multiple sclerosis was diagnosed. Nonetheless he toured, wrote and recorded (with Eric Clapton among others) and in 1979 released another album, See Me, which features several songs written by Lane and Clapton. Around this time Lane travelled the highways and byways of England and lived a ‘passing show’ modern nomadic life in full Gypsy traveller costume and accommodation.
In 1983 his girlfriend Boo Oldfield contacted Glyn Johns with a view to organising a concert to help fund Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis. Johns was already arranging Clapton’s Command Performance for Prince Charles so they decided to book the Royal Albert Hall for a further two nights and host a benefit concert. The resulting ARMS Charity Concerts. featured Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Kenney Jones, Andy Fairweather-Low, Steve Winwood, Ray Cooper, James Hooker, Fernando Saunders, Chris Stainton, Tony Hymas, Simon Phillips and others. With the addition of Joe Cocker and Paul Rodgers they all toured the US. It was during this time that Rodgers and Page started the band, The Firm.
Ronnie and his Family moved to Texas in 1984, where the climate was more beneficial to his health, and continued playing, writing, and recording. He formed an American version of Slim Chance. For close to a decade Ronnie enjoyed his rock status in the Austin area and even toured Japan.
His health continued to decline, and his last performance was in 1992 at a Ronnie Wood gig. Also in the band that night was Ian McLagan.
In 1994 Ronnie and his wife Susan moved to the small town of Trinidad, Colorado. Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood continued to fund his medical care because no royalties from the Small Faces’ work was forthcoming until Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan were eventually able to secure payments, by which time Steve Marriott had died in a house fire and Lane had also died.
Lane succumbed to pneumonia, in the final stages of his progressive multiple sclerosis, on June 4, 1997 and was buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Trinidad, Colorado. He was 51. An album of live BBC recordings was about to be released to raise money for his care when he died.
For his work in both Small Faces and Faces, Lane was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.