(Here’s another offering from my all-time favorite guest blogger – my soul mate Kimi!)
“The Eagles and the Captain and Tennille ruled the airwaves, and we were the answer to it.” ~ Joey Ramone
A happy childhood may keep the psychiatrists at bay, but it may work against you if your dream is to be a rock and roll star.
Take for example the story of Joey Ramone, who was born Jeffry Ross Hyman in New York City 60 years ago today. Despite being raised in a dysfunctional family, afflicted with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and branded a social outcast, he would become one of the founding members of the ground-breaking punk rock band, The Ramones.
Hyman, along with high school pals John Cummings (Johnny Ramone) and Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee Ramone), is credited with giving birth to a new and explosively influential musical genre – punk rock.
Originally the group’s drummer, Joey later became lead vocalist when Dee Dee discovered he couldn’t play his bass and sing at the same time. Though he had no formal training, Joey’s youthful vocal style – which included hiccups, crooning, and snarls – made his voice one of the most recognizable sounds in punk rock.
It wasn’t long after taking over the role of front man that he became a countercultural icon, earning him the nickname “The Godfather of Punk Rock.”
Inspired by Paul McCartney’s use of the pseudonym “Paul Ramon” when checking into hotels, the band members each adopted the surname “Ramone.”
The Ramones made their debut in front of a live audience in 1974 at Performance Studios in New York. The band’s signature style was considered unorthodox for the times.Their songs were very fast and very short – most under two minutes long. In sharp contrast to the disco look of the 70’s, they each wore long hair, leather jackets, t-shirts, torn jeans, and sneakers. While the band enjoyed popularity with their rabid fans, they remained outside of rock’s mainstream.
Tensions between Joey and Johnny negatively colored much of their career. They were at opposite ends of the political spectrum, and Joey’s liberal beliefs clashed with those of arch-conservative Johnny, often on topics such as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Johnny would regularly torment Joey with anti-Semitic comments, and later stole his girlfriend Linda, who he would later marry. This caused a fatal rift between the two, and even though they would continue playing together for several years, they never spoke again.
Joey went on to record one solo album, Don’t Worry About Me (2002), released after his death in 2001. Ex-Ramone Marc Bell (Marky Ramone) played drums on the record.
In 1996, after completing a tour with the Lollapalooza festival, the Ramones disbanded. Less than nine years after the breakup, the three founding members – Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee – were all dead.
Joey Ramone died at New York’s Presbyterian Hospital on April 15, 2001, after a seven-year battle with lymphoma. He was reportedly listening to the song In a Little While by U2 when he died. From that point on during live performances, Bono would introduce the song as a tune that was originally about a love-struck hangover, but that Joey had turned it into a gospel song.
Soon after Joey’s death, The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, despite the fact none of their singles ever cracked the top forty.
Joey’s contribution to music was commemorated with a sign at the corner of Bowery and 2nd Street (now known as Joey Ramone Place) in New York, close to where he once lived with band-mate Dee Dee Ramone.