Sigel, James (N-CSC)
james.sigel at lmco.com
Thu Sep 16 08:20:14 CDT 2004
Johnny Ramone, dead at age 55. From www.chicagotribune.com - (I know it
says LA Times, but I got it off tribune.com...)
>From the Los Angeles Times
Punk guitarist Johnny Ramone dies at 55
By Geoff Boucher
Los Angeles Times staff writer
Published September 16, 2004, 8:06 AM CDT
Johnny Ramone, the guitarist whose bursts of primitive punk energy
helped the Ramones go from an obscure New York band to a reshaping force
in rock 'n' roll, died Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 55.
Ramone, born John Cummings but known by the surname adopted by each of
the punk group's members, died in his sleep surrounded by friends,
according to his family. The guitarist had been battling prostate cancer
for five years and took a turn for the worse in June, when he was
hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with an infection.
The Ramones were a potent and beloved force in punk rock, although their
influence and acclaim came late in the game. The band, known for songs
that were simple, short and frenetic, formed in 1974 in Forest Hills,
N.Y., and their influence was immediate in the late 1970s underground
music revolution of punk. But the band could only watch as other acts
garnered the largest spotlight.
Inducted last year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - ahead of the
more celebrated Sex Pistols and celebrated in a new documentary film,
"End of the Century," now in theaters, the Ramones had to wait until
most of their membership had died to be hailed by mainstream pop culture
as a pioneering force. With Johnny's death, only one member of the
original quartet, drummer Tommy Ramone, is still alive.
With songs such as "I Wanna Be Sedated," "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,"
"Blitzkrieg Bop," "Judy Is a Punk" and "Beat on the Brat," the Ramones
created an underground sensation in the summer of 1974 with their
residency at CBGB, a scruffy club in lower Manhattan. Their fashion was
bowl haircuts and ripped jeans, and their musical pedigree was equally
The band's self-titled 1976 album, recorded for less than $7,000, was a
definitive work with 14 almost cartoonish songs that they raced through
in less than 30 minutes. It drew on 1950s rock and the 1960s garage
bands that seemed to have missed flower power. The band would tour
incessantly and their 1976 foray through Europe influenced the U.K. rock
The band had started, famously, as a group of glue-sniffing delinquents
who saw in music their only chance to escape a dead-end life. Dee Dee,
Joey, Tommy and Johnny somehow exuded both urban fatalism and pure rock
optimism. The band got its name from an alias that Paul McCartney had
used to reserve hotel rooms during the Beatles years.
Punk rock surged in popularity and the band continued to tour, but the
headlines went more often to acts such as the Clash, who added
complexity to the searing energy of the genre. The Ramones were a
popular concert act, but their albums would come and go with little
By the 1990s, the hipness of the band and the success of the newer
generations of artists who revered them led to a widening appreciation
of the band. In 1992, Spin magazine cited the band as one of the top
seven rock acts of all time, showing just how loud the Ramones' quiet
success story had become. A year later, the band was featured in
fittingly cartoon form on "The Simpsons," indicating a certain pop
culture ubiquity. Last year, an album of Ramones song covers was
released featuring some of the top bands in rock, including U2 and
Johnny Ramone essentially hung up his guitar in 1996 after the Ramones
farewell tour and said often that he thought the band would be a
footnote in rock. "Six years later the Ramones are bigger than ever,
have more friends and better friends, and everyone's nice to me wherever
I go," he told The Times in 2003 . "It's weird; it's nice. Better late
than never.... I'm very competitive and I want people to see us as one
of the best bands, and when most people you talk to don't even know who
the hell you are, yeah, it never feels good."
The Long Island-born Johnny Ramone was often described as a core force
in the band's run but also as a difficult personality. He told people
his personality came across in the music - that the rough and fast edge
would not be there if his world view was a soft one.
A former construction worker, he was a rebel in a rebel's world - an
outspoken Republican and supporter of the National Rifle Assn., he used
the mike at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to say, "God bless President
Bush and God bless America."
In his personal life he was an avid fan of film and baseball and his
outlook was shaped by the blue-collar ethos of his Italian family in
A tribute concert and cancer research fund-raiser was held Sunday in Los
Angeles to celebrate the band's 30th anniversary. It featured X, the Red
Hot Chili Peppers, Henry Rollins and other acts that found in the
Ramones a template for rock as rebellion.
Along with his wife, Linda Cummings, Johnny Ramone was surrounded at his
death by friends Eddie and Jill Vedder, Rob and Sherrie Zombie and
others. Other friends who gathered at his Los Angeles home included Lisa
Marie Presley, Pete Yorn, Vincent Gallo and Talia Shire.
He is survived by his wife and his mother, Estelle Cummings. He will be
cremated during a private ceremony.
Jim in Colorado
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