Faces' Ronnie Lane Dead at 51

June 5, 1997 12:00 AM ET

Twenty-one years after he first found out he had multiple sclerosis, Small Faces and Faces founder Ronnie Lane succumbed to the crippling illness in his Trinidad, Colo., home on Wednesday. He was 51.

Lane's battle with multiple sclerosis did not go unnoticed in the rock community, and numerous artists banded together over the last 15 years to perform benefits for Lane and MS research. Last year, Paul Weller, Ocean Colour Scene, Primal Scream, and other alternative rock artists recorded a benefit album of Small Faces covers, "Long Agos and Worlds Apart." In February, Noel Gallagher discussed plans for an EP featuring himself, Weller and Pete Townshend.

Lane's most visible support, however, came from 1983's ARMS tour, which featured Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, among others. Rolling Stone dubbed the benefit, which netted $1 million for Lane's treatment and for Action Research into Multiple Sclerosis, "Concert of the Year."

Despite all the help from his friends, though, Lane's struggle with MS was a bitter, lonely one that reduced the once-high-living rock star to a life confined to a wheelchair, eventually unable to support his own head. Told by his doctors that there was no help for his ailment, Lane resigned himself to misery and blamed his former days of drug and alcohol abuse for his fate.

Lane, born April 1, 1946 in Plaistow, London, began his musical career as the guitarist and lead singer for the Outcasts, which also included drummer Kenny Jones, later of the Who. In 1965, he formed the Small Faces with Steve Marriot, Jones and Jimmy Winston, who was soon replaced by Ian McLagan. The band cut its teeth on blues covers, earning a residency at London's West End Cavern Club and establishing itself as the Who's main rival in London's mod scene. Marriot and Lane quickly came into their own as songwriters with "Hey Girl," "My Mind's Eye," "Itchycoo Park," "Tin Soldier," and "Lazy Sunday."

After Marriot left the Small Faces to form Humble Pie in 1969, Lane, Jones, and McLagan recruited bassist Ron Wood and vocalist Rod Stewart -- both alums of the Jeff Beck group -- and soldiered on as the Faces. Signed to Warner Bros. Records, the hard-drinking, high-living and private-jet-flying Faces quickly garnered a loyal following on both sides of the Atlantic with 1972's "Stay With Me." Lane left the Faces in 1973 and started a traveling rock circus called the Passing Show. In 1977, he collaborated with Pete Townshend on the critically acclaimed album "Rough Mix."

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