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Daily Mail - Yes Amy's a tortured mangled soul, but that's what makes her so great


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#1 Jayne

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 11:12 PM

There are probably some observers who were taken aback by Amy Winehouse's stunning success at last weekend's Grammy Awards.

Mark Ronson is not one of them. As the troubled diva's record producer and co-writer of many of her best songs, the Anglo-American needs no convincing about her.

"Amy is a true artist," he says of the singer who won in five categories, a record for a British female.

"Even if I had never worked with her, I would probably still think she is amazing.

"I went to her house recently and she got out her guitar and played me some new stuff she had written. She's written some beautiful new songs. They just seem to flow out of her really fluently."

In tune: Mark Ronson is credited for making Amy Winehouse a star

If anyone knows Amy, it is surely Ronson. He was the one, after all, who advised the singer to go and write the song Rehab after she mentioned to him that she had been advised to seek professional help for her drug problems.

He has also watched her come close to squandering her enormous talent during a wretched period that has witnessed shambolic live performances, the arrest of her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, on a charge of trying to pervert the course of justice and the publication of a video allegedly showing her smoking crack.

Having finally contradicted the sentiments of Rehab and addressed her demons - she is being treated in a London clinic after being confronted about her drug problem by record label boss Lucian Grainge - there are now signs that Amy is on the road to recovery: her performance last weekend, which was beamed live to the Grammys, was certainly encouraging.

Mark, who met Winehouse after being tipped off about her by a music business friend, speaks of the singer with a mix of awe and concern.

He says that he has learnt to "keep my mouth shut" when asked about her personal life, but reiterates that he sees her as a true great.

"You simply can't write a song as gut-wrenching as Love Is A Losing Game unless you've lived through it," he says.

"I think we're so lucky to have her around."

Ronson, although he is feeling the after-effects of a transatlantic flight and a night spent clubhopping in London, still looks every inch the wellgroomed international star.

Tall, dark and dapper, the 32-year-old is politely spoken and immaculately attired in a silver-grey suit.

Often dubbed the best-connected man in pop, he is the DJ of choice to America's showbiz elite and a studio accomplice to a host of other stars, including Robbie Williams.

Earlier this week his star rose even higher, when he joined Amy among this year's Grammy winners with his own gong for Producer Of The Year.

The award was richly deserved. The world knows that Amy, at her best, is an artist of the highest calibre. It is only now, though, that the genius of her producer is getting the recognition it deserves.

Just like Phil Spector, another musical alchemist with strong New York links, Ronson has raised the level of pop's ambition.

And while Spector - once dubbed "the first tycoon of teen" - was particularly skilful in bringing the best out of female singers, forging the girl-group sound of the Sixties with acts such as The Crystals, The Ronettes and Darlene Love, so Ronson has also shone brightest when working with female performers.

Alongside Amy, he has produced records by Christina Aguilera, Lily Allen and talented newcomer Santo Gold.

But, chatting over a morning coffee, the man of the moment, who is also shortlisted for next week's Brits, is not seeking to blow his own trumpet.

Despite seeming slightly distant at first - the jetlag and partying can't have helped - he is engaging company, happy to chat for ages about his roots in New York and London and his obsessive love of music.

The Amy connection, of course, will help to guarantee him a high profile at Wednesday's awards ceremony, where he will be playing live with his touring band.

But Ronson is also being honoured for his current solo album, Version, a brilliant melange of hip-hop beats, old-school soul and songs lifted from the canon of British indie-pop.

His three nominations - for best male artist, best album and best single (the latter for Valerie, a Zutons' cover sung by Winehouse) - also emphasise that, despite moving from London to Manhattan when he was eight, Ronson is still accepted as a Brit on these shores.

"I'm proud of the role I have fallen into," he says in a languid, mid-Atlantic drawl.

"I'm seen in America as someone who is respected for producing British talent. That makes me feel I'm some sort of ambassador. That's why being shortlisted at the Brits is important to me.

"Even though I'm British by birth, I have lived in New York all my adult life and have this annoying accent.

"With the Brits nominations, the British record industry have said that they consider me as British."

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that Ronson is so well-connected.

The son of music publisher Laurence Ronson and media socialite Ann Dexter-Jones, Mark and his two sisters moved from London to New York when his parents separated and his mother married American musician Mick Jones, the lead guitarist of Seventies soft-rock band Foreigner.

With the Ronson household on the Upper West Side a meeting place for Manhattan's social elite, Mark's upbringing was privileged but far from conventional.

Robin Williams, Andy Warhol and Paul McCartney were all occasional house guests while the producer's biggest childhood buddy was Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Through that particular friendship, there was also an encounter with Michael Jackson.

Says Mark: "I would never have met Sean if I hadn't grown up in New York with showbiz parents. He was a good friend.

"That also led, when I was 12, to the indescribably bizarre experience of hanging out at Sean's house with Michael Jackson.

"At the time, he was the biggest star in the world. But, because my stepfather was a musician, it didn't seem that out of the ordinary.

"Michael Jackson was a guy whose records I loved, but he just watched videos with us and ran around playing with a toy laser.

"At the time, I didn't think twice about it. Now, of course, I look back on it and wonder: "Did anything odd happen?" But it didn't.'

As to his parents' divorce, Mark is remarkably sanguine. Looking back, he is grateful for having had the opportunity to live in New York while enjoying visits back to his dad in London.

"We used to call Mick Jones 'Daddy Mick', which was a bit bizarre, but we got on with it. Divorce can be traumatic whether you're moving around the block or to another country, as we did.

"When you're young, you don't think about the implications too deeply. And having the experience of growing up in two cities was amazing.

"Compared to London, New York at first seemed to have a much faster pace. But London has done a lot to catch up over the years."

Educated at New York's Collegiate School, a private college for boys, Ronson excelled in his Advanced Maths and French classes, although the chance of future progress into one of America's elite Ivy League universities was ultimately derailed by his love of music.

"It was a tough school, but also a bit stuffy," he says. "You had to wear a shirt, tie and blazer at all times. About a third of the students ended up at the best universities.

"I don't know if I applied myself hard enough to get to that standard, but my love of playing in bands took the edge off my academic record.

"The problem with being a teenager growing up in New York was that there was so much fantastic music around.

"Hearing an LL Cool J rap hit blaring out of a passing car for the first time was a great experience."

While Ronson was happy to play rudimentary guitar with the teenage rock bands who would make liberal use of his stepfather's four-track home studio, his first real love was dance music, and particularly the hip-hop sounds that were bursting out of New York in the early Eighties.

His obsession with rap led to an avid record collecting habit and, eventually, to the DJ booth.

"When I was about ten or 11, the big rap record was Run DMC's Raising Hell, the album with their version of Aerosmith's Walk This Way. It was a huge watershed, for rap music and for me.

"Rock was very boring in the mid-Eighties. In America, it had entered the hair-metal phase, so I began getting more obsessive about hip-hop, and had to find some way of expressing my love for that music.

"I didn't know much about production and I would have been a useless rapper, so I became a DJ. And, when I graduated from school, my parents gave me a pair of turntables."

With his ability to "rock the house" with a winning blend of hip-hop, old soul and guitar singles by The Clash and AC/DC, Ronson built a reputation as New York's most versatile DJ, playing to hardened rap audiences and at the parties of the rich and famous.

The term "celebrity DJ" was even coined for him, an unwanted tag that, until recently, he has found difficult to shake off.

"People like Puff Daddy and Jay-Z started coming down to the clubs and giving me praise.

"As I mixed more and more rock stuff in, I'd see rappers singing along to AC/DC's Back In Black.

"When I started DJ-ing, it was high school parties. Then it was underground clubs on the Lower East Side.

"Once people started coming to those clubs, it helped me move on to the trendier parties. But then, as I became known as a celebrity DJ, I stopped doing celebrity events."

Having broken into record production with a credit on the dance single Everybody Got Their Something, by Nikka Costa, Ronson made an album of his own, the hip-hop-flavoured Here Comes The Fuzz.

But it was with last year's Version that he really made his name.

The notion of mixing indie-pop, hiphop and soul came about almost by accident. Mark stumbled on the recipe while recording a cover of a Radiohead song, Just, for a tribute album.

"Just was the catalyst for the whole of Version," he says.

"I was adding percussion and guitar to the track, but the guitars were too heavy. They were overpowering the slinkiness of the beat, so I struck on the idea of replacing the guitars with horns. That gave me the blueprint for an album."

Ronson says that he is not a traditional singer-songwriter. He explains: "I wrote the music for Back To Black, but I didn't have to go through the pain that enabled Amy to define that song.

"I'm an arranger and a producer.

"When I was younger, I used to write narrative songs. If I split up with a girlfriend, I'd write about it.

"But I haven't done that in a long time. I've denied myself access to that part of my brain.

"I've always been a bit of a nerd. I've always had that side to my personality. When I was nine, I used to pore over album liner notes and read music industry magazines like Billboard.

"Later on, I also worked as an intern for Rolling Stone magazine."

Looking ahead, Ronson will eventually make another solo album - this time focusing on original material rather than cover versions - and will no doubt work again with Amy Winehouse.


A second studio liaison with another British star, Lily Allen, looks unlikely, however.

Mark produced Littlest Things, a track from Lily's 2006 debut album, but the pair have been unable to collaborate on the singer's follow-up, a record now nearing completion.

"I don't think we'll work together this time, as we haven't spoken in a while," he says.

"But you sometimes work with people and instantly know that it's special. That was the case with Lily. I was inspired by the tone of her voice, but she is clever and she knows what she wants."

In the meantime, there is more production work (with British band The Rumble Strips and American singer Richard Swift) plus a British tour.

The latter opened last night in Plymouth, culminates with two nights at Hammersmith Apollo and sees him hitting the road with a large cast of guest singers, including Tim Burgess, Candi Payne and Daniel Merriweather.

"My manager is annoyed with me, because I always bring so many people on tour with me," says Mark.

"The costs are so high that I never make money from touring, but I don't really care about that. If we can break even, I'm fine. This isn't my day job. Producing records is my day job."

Then, of course, there are the Brits. Fresh from last weekend's Grammys win, Ronson will be hoping to make it a double next Wednesday.

And, living up to his reputation as the most well-connected musician in the game, he will be accompanied onstage by Merriweather, London's teenage soul sensation Adele and, maybe, one more star he refuses to name.

"I'm going to try and squeeze three songs into five minutes," he says.

"Having Adele there will be great. There's something really honest about her. Maybe there will be a surprise guest, too." • Version is out now. Mark Ronson's new single, Just, is out on Monday.

http://www.dailymail...in_page_id=1879

#2 Lainey

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 11:35 PM

That was an excellent article - thanks for posting. I love Mark Ronson - he's incredibly talented and without the slightest attitude. He rocks.

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 11:36 PM

Honesty is always refreshing!

#4 ILLEGALL

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 11:42 PM

it took them what, all of two years and an interview with ronson to realize that she is this? lol

the fact that she seems enthusiastic about her new material is a good sign

#5 Tinkerbell

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 11:43 PM

I love Mark to pieces!

#6 Moody's Mood

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 11:46 PM

Wow, go daily mail!

If the special guest isn't Amy...

#7 pearljo

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 12:03 AM

A picture of Mark and his mother.

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#8 -Sammy-

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 12:07 AM

cool article thanks =]

awwww his mum is pretty xD and of course hes quite cute =]

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 01:11 AM

As a mum it's always nice to see that your child has turned out more than very well.

#10 pearljo

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 01:18 AM

Guess that's why my mom was so pissed at me. lol

#11 Guest_blakmamba76_*

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 01:19 AM

No worries, I'm proud of you;)

#12 pearljo

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 01:24 AM

:dance: That was nice of you tam.

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 01:27 AM

~ ;) ~

#14 malaroda

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 01:23 PM

Mark sounds so normal... And he's a cutie. I sure hope the special guest is Amy!

#15 Mb3

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 04:19 PM

"I went to her house recently and she got out her guitar and played me some new stuff she had written. She's written some beautiful new songs. They just seem to flow out of her really fluently."


Nice article, the best part for me is to know that she's written some new songs because I desperately want to hear some new stuff from her in the near future.




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