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Ronnie Lane, 51, started rock band Small Faces. The English-born bass player had battled multiple sclerosis for two decades.
New York Times, Jun 6, 1997

Ronnie Lane, 51, an English rock bass guitarist who founded the band Small Faces, died Wednesday at his home in Colorado.

The cause of death was multiple sclerosis, the Reuters news agency reported.

Mr. Lane was 18 in 1964 when he and Steve Marriott founded the Small Faces, so named because all five band members were short. The band came up with a jaunty, informal-sounding mixture of pop, rock and skiffle, soon warped by psychedelia; in 1967, a Small Faces single called "Itchycoo Park" introduced the psychedelic sound of phase-distorted guitar to American Top 40 radio. In 1968, the band made a whimsical concept album, "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake," that mingled songs with a punning fairy-tale narrative.

Marriott left the Small Faces and was replaced by Rod Stewart, who brought along a fellow Jeff Beck Group member, Ronnie Wood, on guitar.

The group became the Faces, and gradually turned into Stewart's backup band. Mr. Lane left in 1973 to start the group Slim Chance, and in 1976 and 1977 he recorded a duet album with Pete Townshend of the Who, "Rough Mix" . But by then, he was feeling the effects of multiple sclerosis.

"The odd spasm of double vision I didn't take very seriously at first," he said in 1987. "I just put it down to that heavy Saturday night I just had. But it came on me very suddenly when I was trying to put the bass line on a song that I'd written. My fingers just would not work, and I thought, `What the hell has happened to me?' From there it led to crippledom."

In the early 1980s, Mr. Lane found some relief with hyperbaric oxygen, an unorthodox treatment, and decided to publicize the method with concerts in 1983 at the Royal Albert Hall in London and at Madison Square Garden in New York to benefit the charity Action Research for Multiple Sclerosis. The performers included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Wood among the guitarists and Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones. A videotape was released of the London show, which also included Steve Winwood.

Later, Mr. Lane came to think the treatments were a palliative, not a cure. But he persevered as a performer; in 1987, using a wheelchair, he played again with a band called the Tremors, in Texas and in New York.

He is survived by his wife, Sue, and two sons from an earlier marriage.

 


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