Ian Hunter’s long-time collaborator was diagnosed with liver cancer in August 1991. He fought the illness, continuing to work on a new solo album and on other projects as he could. In early 1992 he produced Morrissey’s album Your Arsenal. He played with David Bowie on I Feel Free, on the Black Tie White Noise album. He also played at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in London in April 1992, playing with Hunter on All the Young Dudes and with Bowie on "Heroes". More work on the solo album, to be called Heaven and Hull, continued into 1993. He died in April 1993.
Hunter recalls that "he was always an optimist … he didn’t lay down until 3 days before he died … his work was of great quality and will stand up long after a lot of people who are flashier players will be forgotten. On a personal level he was so kind and full of life. It’s like a lot of people, when they die, you realise how good they are."
The Heaven and Hull (Hull was his home town) album was "around 80% complete" according to Suzi Ronson. It was finished by others and released on Epic in May 1994.
Hunter wrote a tribute song for Ronson called Michael Picasso, though it wasn’t released until 1998 (on Artful Dodger). The song has become a concert favourite and is written with typical honesty:
"You used to love our house – you said it was relaxing.
Now I walk in the places you walked
I talk in all the places you talked – it still hasn’t sunk in
… Michael – Michael Picasso – Goodnight."
There is something special about all the Hunter/Ronson collaborations. Three of the Hunter/Ronson albums are outstanding: the first, Schizophrenic, and YUI Orta. We are also fortunate to have one of the 1989 London shows in such great quality.
Ronson’s solo work, beyond what he did with Bowie and Hunter, is also well worth exploring. My favourite is Slaughter on 10th Avenue, but there also is good stuff on Play, Don’t Worry and also on Heaven and Hull.