Given the middle name Ronzoni, after the brand of pasta, which was the only food his mother could digest while pregnant with him; this was later shortened to the nickname Ronnie. Started the vocal group Shades of Jade while in high school. Made his TV debut on Sesame Street., as part of the musical theater workshop ensemble Listen, My Brother. In 1972, penned the song "Everybody Rejoice (A Brand New Day)," which was used in the Broadway musical The Wiz three years later. Met David Bowie in 1974, and went on to sing backup for the rock icon, as well as open for him on tour. In the mid-'70s, began providing backing vocals for albums by numerous pop icons, including Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand and Ringo Starr. Found success in the late '70s as a writer and singer of commercial tunes, performing jingles for soft drinks, fast-food restaurants and telephones. Solo debut album, Never Too Much, was released in 1981. Was involved in a fatal three-car accident in Los Angeles in 1986, when he lost control of the car he was driving. Ranked number 54 on Rolling Stone's 2008 list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Struggled with his weight throughout his career, and suffered from diabetes and hypertension. Was a lover of fashion and always performed in a tuxedo.