The rise of the DJ from relative anonymity in the 1970’s to superstar status in the 2000’s is a fascinating look into the music industry machine. We know how bands and singers traditionally make it big, but DJs often take less traveled roads to a promised land of fame and fortune. Mark Ronson —one of the most sought after DJ/producers on the scene today— is an example of how a multi-talented bloke from the tony neighborhood of St. Johns Wood in London can mix together music skills and fashion styles to find his way to success.

Ronson could have chosen any number of professions —his extended family includes several successful businessmen and politicians— but when his parents divorced and his mom married Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones and took Mark with her to Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 1983, there was a strong musical influence at play. Life on the west side offered the opportunity for a young Ronson to befriend Sean Lennon, son of Beatles legend John Lennon, and when Ronson attended Vassar and then New York University, he would frequent downtown clubs that were promoting Hip Hop, Techno and House music.

Photo by: LeAnn Mueller

After getting up to speed on the skills needed to spin, Ronson began landing gigs in 1993 that paid $50 per night. Known for mixing Funk, Hip Hop, Rock and beat-heavy Electronic, Ronson soon became a legitimate player in the competitive New York club world and more high profile paydays followed. In 1999, his club connections landed Ronson a spot in a Tommy Hilfiger denim ad. He also jumped on the chance to produce music for Hilfiger’s campaign ads. Now, Ronson was straddling both music and fashion and enjoying the bright lights and fast lifestyle that accompanies both.

After getting up to speed on the skills needed to spin, Ronson began landing gigs in 1993 that paid $50 per night. Known for mixing Funk, Hip Hop, Rock and beat-heavy Electronic, Ronson soon became a legitimate player in the competitive New York club world and more high profile paydays followed. In 1999, his club connections landed Ronson a spot in a Tommy Hilfiger denim ad. He also jumped on the chance to produce music for Hilfiger’s campaign ads. Now, Ronson was straddling both music and fashion and enjoying the bright lights and fast lifestyle that accompanies both.

At some point in a DJs career, he comes to a crossroads: be strictly a DJ or branch out and use his skills to be a producer. Often determined by his ability to remix, DJs usually get one shot at the lucrative world of producing and when Ronson got his in 2001, he took it. After hearing one of Ronson’s sets, singer Nikka Costa’s manager got the two together to work on “Everybody Got Their Something”. This led to Ronson signing a record contract with Elektra and in 2003 he released his debut album, Here Comes the Fuzz.


Ronson established himself as a genuine musician and that’s when he stepped out of the DJ booth and into the studio and onto the runway.

The album didn’t exactly burn up the charts but it was given very positive reviews by critics. Music insiders took note that Ronson not only wrote all the songs, but also created the beats, played guitar, keyboards and bass. Unlike some DJs who can only work with what another artist created, Ronson established himself as a genuine musician and that’s when he stepped out of the DJ booth and into the studio and onto the runway.

After Costa, Ronson would work alongside an impressive and eclectic list of talents including Sean Paul, Christina Aguilera, Amy Winehouse, Ghostface Killah, Duran Duran, Adele, Q-Tip and Paul McCartney. When industry execs hear about a rising star in the ranks, word travels quick and Ronson was not hesitant to work overtime if it meant producing for some of music’s biggest names.

Photo by: Karl Simone

Ronson continued to work on studio albums, releasing Version in 2007, Record Collection in 2010 and Uptown Special in 2015. The Uptown Special release was a milestone moment in that it paired Ronson with superstar Bruno Mars. The two released the immensely successful track “Uptown Funk” in 2014 that reached #1 in the UK and US singles charts and became the all-time most streamed track in a single week in the UK, having been streamed 2.49 million times in one seven-day span. As of November 2016, the song had been viewed over 2 billion times on YouTube.

Now, the awards and accolades poured in. In 2015, Ronson would win the Brit Award for British Single of the Year, he would be nominated for two Brit Awards in 2016 for Best Male Solo Artist and British Producer of the Year, and he would win two Grammy’s, one for Record of the Year. “Uptown Funk” was such a colossal achievement that Jason Iley, the head of Sony Music UK would say, “the monumental success of Uptown Funk is so thoroughly deserved, and has established itself as, not only one of the Records Of The Year, but of our lifetime”.

Ronson had more than arrived; he took over the party. And his background in fashion prepared him for the spotlight. Prior to the “Uptown Funk” revolution, Ronson was voted the most stylish man in the UK by GQ in 2009, named one of GQ’s best dressed British men in 2015 and made Debrett’s list of most influential people in Britain in 2017. Though some DJs shy from the spotlight, Ronson reveled in it and used his newfound fame to flash a unique style that combined his privileged upbringing with his young adult move into clubland.


Ronson gives a nod to his roots but adds his own spin with choice accessories.

While the Ronson sound is clearly defined by Funk, his style is a bold blend of vibrant colors and shiny materials overlaying traditional ensembles. Ronson gives a nod to his roots but adds his own spin with choice accessories. From tweed and checks to shimmering royal blue suits and flamingo pink outfits, Ronson has no trouble standing out in a crowd. His exposure to high society in St. John Wood and New York’s upper west side gave Ronson a sense of tradition, but his foray into clubs and fashion shows allowed for a fun and daring edge. It’s not unusual for Ronson to pair a classic grey flannel suit with a shocking fascia shirt or to match traditional checks with sneakers favored by the tech-savvy Silicon Valley crowd. Ronson enjoys being a part of multiple worlds and his style reflects the many scenes he plays in.

Following up on “Uptown Funk” won’t be easy. It is unlikely Ronson’s next project will eclipse the massive success he had with Bruno Mars, but that won’t deter him from doing what he does best. For Ronson, it isn’t about outselling his previous records, it’s about venturing into the unknown and finding a beat and rhythm that fits. Just like his outfits and DJ techniques, Ronson is most comfortable when he’s spinning together styles no one else would try.

Top foto by: Nicole Nodland for Billboard