Ramones Guitarist Dies at 55 in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Johnny Ramone, the lead guitarist with the influential U.S. punk rock band the Ramones, died on Wednesday after a five-year battle with prostate cancer, a long-time associate told Reuters.
Ramone, 55, who was born John Cummings, died in his sleep at his Los Angeles home on Wednesday afternoon, said Arturo Vega, the Ramones’ creative director.
The Ramones, famed for playing their high-energy, unpolished songs at breakneck speed, rose to fame in New York City in the 1970s, paving the way for such British punk rock icons as the Sex Pistols and the Clash.
But unlike most punks, Ramone was an outspoken Republican who once declared Ronald Reagan the best U.S. president of his lifetime.
Ramone becomes the third member of the band to die in recent years. Singer Joey Ramone, born Jeffrey Hyman, died in 2001 of lymphatic cancer. Bassist Dee Dee Ramone, born Douglas Colvin, died from a drug overdose the following year.
At Johnny Ramone’s bedside were his wife, Linda, as well as rock stars such as Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante and hard-rocker Rob Zombie, Vega said.
Ramone will be cremated in a private ceremony on Thursday, and plans are being made for a public memorial, including the unveiling of a statue, at some stage, Vega said.
The band has recently crept back into the spotlight. Vedder, Zombie, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed at a tribute concert in Los Angeles on Sept. 12 marking the Ramones’ 30th anniversary. Ramone, too sick to attend, spoke to the fans by telephone.
A documentary, “End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones,” has just been released in theaters, and former Ramones drummer Marky Ramone has overseen the recent release of a DVD called “Ramones Raw.”
The band made its mark with nihilistic tunes like “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Teenage Lobotomy,” “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” but never achieved the commercial success of groups that followed in its wake.
The Ramones officially broke up in 1996, after releasing 21 studio and live albums.
Johnny Ramone and his future bandmates were raised in the largely middle-class New York neighborhood of Forest Hills in Queens. They knew each other as youngsters, and shared an interest in pioneering punk bands like the New York Dolls.
After attending a military academy — an experience that would make him the group’s task master and most-focused member — Johnny Ramone started playing guitar at 22.
The Ramones, rounded out by drummer/producer Tommy Ramone (born Tommy Erdelyi) performed publicly for the first time in March 1974 and recorded a self-titled debut album in 1976.
Their songs, famously brief and counted in with a frenzied “one-two-three-four!” introduction, mixed their daily frustrations with a dark sense of humor.
“We couldn’t write about love or cars, so we sang about this stuff, like glue-sniffing. We thought it was funny. We thought we could get away with anything,” Johnny Ramone once said.