In 2021, Ronnie Wood revealed that he’d spent his lockdown battling a second bout of cancer. His first diagnosis came in 2016, the same year that David Bowie died in his New York City home, having suffered from liver cancer for 18 months. The impact of Bowie’s death had a profound impact on Wood – not least because they were precisely the same age. For Wood, the news acted as a reminder of life’s fragility; prompting him to consider his legacy as well as those he would have left behind if he’d not been so lucky.
For many years The Rolling Stones were synonymous with rock ‘n’ roll excess. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until later in their lives that both Bowie and Wood began to fully appreciate how much impact their decadent lifestyles had had on their health. “I smoked heavily for 50 years, and I thought, there’s got to be some price to pay. I hadn’t had a chest x-ray for 16 years, and when I did, sure enough, there was a big shadow there on my lung, a supernova. I thought ‘fucking hell’”.
The doctors were astounded that the Rolling Stones guitarist was able to recover so quickly. “I came out the next week and I was back in the studio,” he said, “You’re not supposed to get better that quickly. A lot of it was celebration in the fact that I was still alive, that it hadn’t spread. There was so much gratitude in the air”.
But Woods bill of clean health was contrasted by the news that Bowie hadn’t been so lucky. “It especially affected me with Bowie because we were the same age – both 1947 models,” Wood told The Guardian in 2017. “David and I, we never saw a lot of each other, but when we did, we had a lot in common. With the cancer, he pulled the short straw. I knew he had a stroke as well. Since he hadn’t been doing concerts or public appearances, I knew something fishy was going on with his health. I knew something was up. I was lucky, I got the long straw with the cancer”.
Being the same age, Bowie and Wood had grown up in parallel. They were both Londoners through and through and had both attended art school: Bowie at the Bromley School of Art, Wood at Ealing Art College. With the news of Bowe’s death, Wood came the stark realisation that maybe he wasn’t so invincible after all. But, more than anything, he was reminded of his family and the importance of sharing as much time with them as possible. “With these little twin girls in my life, it just really makes you want to be around longer to watch them grow,” he said. “Having that second chance, it’s made me even more grateful to enjoy the twins, enjoy the kids I already have, enjoy Sally, enjoy going back on the road, all of it”.