The Untold Truth Of Ronnie Wood

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood is rock star royalty. He's been in it from the early days when London was rife with young blokes looking to make a mark in the world of blues-based rock. He's steadily been an influential part of the rock scene, known for his lanky body, spiky dark hair, and guitar chops. Now 73, he even has those gaunt cheeks that seem to be part of the Rolling Stones' trademarked look. 

But much like the band, Wood has defied being toppled by the trappings of the excesses associated with rock 'n' roll life. He didn't overdose or implode, though he's no stranger to drugs or alcohol – The Sun reported he's been through rehab eight times. As a long-time cigarette smoker he's has had two recent cancer diagnoses, both of which he's beaten. 

Wood has persevered to become a successful visual artist in his own right. In 2012 he married a woman 31 years his junior who gave birth to the couple's twin girls in 2016, according to Hello! Magazine. It's this third marriage, per the Evening Standard, with a slew of supermodel dating stints in between. Prior to the twins he already had three grown children and two step-children.

In the latter years of his life, Wood has the good fortune of a loving family, still being a member of one of the longest-touring rock 'n' roll bands of all time, and he's still living life to the fullest. 

Ronnie Wood comes from a family of creative barge people

Ronnie Wood was born in West London in June 1947 to a family of "bargees" — people who lived and worked on the waters hauling goods. He told The Guardian in 2017, "You can trace a lot of the Woods, and the Dyers, my mum's maiden name, back to the 18th century — on the waters, carrying timber or salt. Maybe there's a link to the Spaniards — why else have I got black hair at 70?"

Per his website (Ronnie Wood) and what he told The Guardian, Wood's upbringing was full of music and art, with his father playing in a harmonica orchestra. His brothers, who were 10 years older than he, were also musicians and artists.

Wood's parents let the siblings have a room in the family's small home to use as a creative room. His family encouraged him in the arts, and his brothers even bought him his first acoustic guitar. According to his website, by the time Wood was 14 he'd saved up to buy an electric guitar.

Per The Guardian, he said of his brothers, "They made it such a natural thing to be sitting around, drawing and playing. They'd bring back their art school friends — all the girls! I'd be there, in short pants and grey flannels, thinking: 'That looks like a good job. Lots of perks on the side, and you can paint too!'"

Despite playing in other bands, Wood always wanted to join the Rolling Stones

Wood went to Ealing Art College for a time before dropping out to focus more on his first band, The Birds (not to be confused with the American band The Byrds).

According to the Ronnie Wood website, The Birds was not successful, but he wasn't deterred. In 1967 Wood joined the Jeff Beck Band, but they split in 1969. In the early 1970s Wood joined up with a few guys, including now lifelong friend Rod Stewart, to form The Faces, a band that enjoyed success both as a live act and with hit songs like "Stay With Me" (posted on YouTube) which Wood helped write.

Not just a supporting musician, Wood also put out a couple of solo albums in 1974 and 1975. The records, fittingly titled "I've Got My Own Album To Do," and "Now Look," included contributions by other British musicians and friends, including Stewart. George Harrison of the Beatles also cameoed on Wood's solo records, as did Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, but that was before Wood had been asked to join their band, says Wood's website.

In 1975 that all changed when at a chance encounter at a party, Mick Jagger invited Wood to join the Stones to replace guitarist Mick Taylor, who had quit. Wood is quoted on his website saying, "I used to run home from school to watch the Stones on TV. Right from when I was at college I wanted to be in that band."

Wood apprenticed with the Rolling Stones for 17 years

Wood became a member of the Rolling Stones, but it was a long time before he was treated as an equal — 17 years, to be exact. Ultimate Classic Rock reported that though Wood joined the band, he was only paid when they were on tour. While he played on successful records like "Some Girls" and "Tattoo You," he didn't get any royalties from those record sales. 

He told The Guardian in 2017, "I did my apprenticeship, 17 years, before I got a raise, before I even thought about money. I was like, 'Do you think I should get a bit more?' and they were like 'Yeah, well, we thought you'd never ask — those who don't ask, don't want, mate.'"

It may seem like a long time to not get paid as an equal member of such a successful band, but the years flew by in a haze of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Yet even though Wood fully participated in all of it, he says he knew not to take it too far. He told The Guardian, "Both with the drugs and the drink, luckily I had a cut-out point that would rescue me. In the midst of the oblivion, I'd suddenly think something like, 'One more of those pills, and it's all going to be over.' You're watching people around you, taking them like sweets, all 'Wahey!', and I'd be thinking: 'Don't do that.' You had to be continually on your guard."

Wood's art has been his form of therapy

Wood is a consummate creative. Even though he dropped out of Ealing Art College to pursue music, his love for painting and drawing never left him. During the years when he wasn't getting paid much or touring with the Stones in the 1980s, Wood went back to his other art.

Wood told CNN in 2019, "When I'd spent all my money on the good life I realized that I had to exploit my other God-given talent, and I thought, 'Actually, I can paint! Why don't I earn my bread and butter by selling some of my prints and drawings?' So that's what I started to do when I lived in Los Angeles and I was in New York — sort of having exhibitions there, as well."

Wood says he loves doing art, just as he did while growing up. Often using the Rolling Stones as his muse, along with occasional blues artists, or his wife and kids, Wood also creates landscapes, guitar scapes, sculptures, pencil drawings, tour posters and more, says his website.

At Castle Fine Art, some of his art is exhibited and sold for asking prices upwards of £22,900 or roughly $30,000. The site quotes his belief that "There is no kind of therapy like the one you have from starting a picture and then seeing it through to the end."

Life is good, cancer sucks, but he's staying positive

Even as Wood seems to be on the upswing with his art, music, and family, he's had to deal with two bouts of lung cancer. In 2017 Wood had a surgery to remove the cancer. He told The Guardian that year, "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 "f***ing hell!. I definitely went in there with a positive attitude. I thought, right, I've got cancer, let's get it out."

That surgery was a success, but in April 2021 Wood revealed he'd had another, different lung cancer. This time it was small-cell carcinoma — a less common but more aggressive form of lung cancer, per the Cleveland Clinic. Wood told The Sun he'd been stricken with the disease during the coronavirus pandemic, but said, "I came through with the all-clear." Wood told The Sun he still plans to tour with the Rolling Stones when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. 

He's also staying busy. Wood recorded a new album with his band Mr. Luck and Mick Taylor and as told on his website, began donating a series of art prints in support of Melia Clapton's (Eric's wife) foundation, Turn Up For Recovery, which focuses on abstinence-based recovery through music. 

Wood told The Sun, "I am grateful every day for the continuance of this positive attitude."