Joey Ramone (May 19, 1951 – April 15, 2001), born as Jeffry Ross Hyman, was a Jewish American vocalist and songwriter best known for his work in the punk rock group the Ramones. Joey Ramone's image, voice and tenure as frontman of the Ramones made him a countercultural icon.
Joey grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, New York in a Jewish family. He and his future bandmates attended Forest Hills High School. During his youth, he was by general accounts something of an outcast and had a dysfunctional family life, which inspired the song "We're A Happy Family". His parents divorced in the early 1960s. His mother, Charlotte Lesher (1926–2007), who survived him, encouraged an interest in music in both him and his brother Mitchell (a.k.a. Mickey Leigh).
He was a fan of The Beatles, The Who, and The Stooges among other bands (particularly oldies and the Phil Spector-produced "girl groups"). His hero was Pete Townshend of The Who. He took up drums at 13, playing throughout his teen years. He co-founded the Ramones in 1974 with friends John Cummings and Douglas Colvin, upon which point all three adopted Ramone as their stage surname. He initially served as the group's drummer. Dee Dee Ramone was the original vocalist. However, Dee Dee proved to be unsuited for the lead vocal position as he shredded his vocal cords after the first few songs recorded, so manager Tommy Erdelyi (who adopted the name Tommy Ramone) suggested Joey switch to vocals and Tommy take over on drums.
The Ramones were an American rock band often regarded as the first punk rock group. Formed in Forest Hills, Queens, New York, in 1974, all of the band members adopted stage names ending with "Ramone", though none of them were actually related. They performed 2,263 concerts, touring virtually nonstop for twenty-two years. In 1996, after a tour with the Lollapalooza music festival, the band played their final show and then disbanded. A little more than eight years after the breakup, the band's three founding members - Joey, guitarist Johnny Ramone, and bassist Dee Dee Ramone — were dead.
The Ramones were a major influence on the punk rock movement both in the United States and Great Britain, though they achieved only minor commercial success. Their only record with enough U.S. sales to be certified gold was the compilation album Ramones Mania. Recognition of the band's importance built over the years, and they are now regularly represented in many assessments of all-time great rock music, such as the Rolling Stone lists of the 50 Greatest Artists of All Time and 25 Greatest Live Albums of All Time, VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock, and Mojo's 100 Greatest Albums. In 2002, the Ramones were voted the second greatest rock and roll band ever in Spin, trailing only The Beatles.
In 1985, Ramone joined Little Steven Van Zandt's music-industry activist group Artists United Against Apartheid which acted against the Sun City resort in South Africa. Joey and forty-nine other top recording artists, including Bruce Springsteen, U2, Bob Dylan and Run DMC, collaborated on the song "Sun City" in which they pledged they would never perform at the resort.
In 1994, Joey appeared on the Helen Love album Love and Glitter, Hot Days and Music singing the track "Punk Boy". Helen Love returned the favor, singing on Ramone's song "Mr. Punchy".
Ramone co-wrote and recorded the song "Meatball Sandwich" with Youth Gone Mad. For a short time before his death, he took the role of manager and producer for the punk rock group The Independents.
His last recording as a vocalist was singing backup vocals on the CD One Nation Under by the Dine Navajo rock group Blackfire. He appeared on two tracks, "What Do You See" and "Lying to Myself". The CD, released in 2002, won "Best Pop/Rock Album of the Year" at the 2002 Native American Music Awards.
Ramone also produced the Ronnie Spector album, She Talks to Rainbows, in 1999. It was critically acclaimed, but did not perform too well with the public and went virtually unnoticed. The title track was previously on the Ramones' last studio album, ¡Adios Amigos!.
Joey Ramone died of lymphoma at New York-Presbyterian Hospital on April 15, 2001, after a seven year battle.  He was reportedly listening to the song "In A Little While" by U2 when he died. This was during U2's Elevation Tour, and from that point on during shows Bono would introduce the song as a tune that was originally about a lovestruck hangover but that Joey turned it into a gospel song.
His solo album Don't Worry About Me was released posthumously in 2002, and features the single "What a Wonderful World", a cover of the Louis Armstrong standard. MTV News claimed: "With his trademark rose-colored shades, black leather jacket, shoulder-length hair, ripped jeans and alternately snarling and crooning, hiccoughing vocals, Joey was the iconic godfather of punk."
On November 30, 2003, a block of East 2nd Street in New York City was officially renamed Joey Ramone Place. It is the block where Joey Ramone once lived with bandmate Dee Dee Ramone, and is near the music club CBGB, where the Ramones got their start. Hyman's birthday is celebrated annually by rock 'n' roll nightclubs, hosted in New York City by his brother and, until 2007, his mother, Charlotte. Joey Ramone was buried in Hillside Cemetery in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.
In 2001, when Joey Ramone died, the Ramones were named as inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, prior to the actual ceremony held early the following year (2002).
Ramone's vocal style was unorthodox in that he had no formal training in an era where vocal proficiency was arguably the norm for most rock bands. His signature cracks, hiccups, snarls, crooning and youthful voice made his one of punk rock's most recognizable voices. Allmusic.com claims that "Joey Ramone's signature bleat was the voice of punk rock in America." As his vocals matured and deepened through his career, so did the Ramones' songwriting, leaving a notable difference from Joey's initial melodic and callow style—two notable tracks serving as examples are "Somebody Put Something in My Drink" and "Mama's Boy".
- For Ramones albums, see Ramones discography on Wikipedia.
- Don't Worry About Me – (2002)
- In a Family Way – Sibling Rivalry (1994)
- Ramones: Leathers from New York – The Ramones and Joey Ramone (solo) (1997)
- Christmas Spirit...In My House – (2002)
- "I Got You Babe" - (1982) (A duet with Holly Beth Vincent)
- "What a Wonderful World" - (2002)
Notes and references
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Allmusic.com
- ↑ Powers, Ann. "Joey Ramone, Punk's Influential Yelper, Dies at 49", The New York Times, April 16, 2001. Accessed June 2, 2009. "Born Jeffry Hyman in Forest Hills, Queens, Mr. Ramone grew up a sensitive outcast in a bohemian family."
- ↑ BBC News | MUSIC | The musical misfits
- ↑ Independents band bio
- ↑ Blackfire.net
- ↑ Notice of Joey Ramone's death
- ↑ VH1 news
- ↑ U2. (2001). Elevation 2001: Live from Boston. [DVD]. Boston, Massachusetts: Island/Interscope.
- ↑ MTV News obituary
- ↑ Officialramones.com
- ↑ "Sometimes the Grave Is a Fine and Public Place". New York Times. March 28, 2004. "But there are a slew of other places around New Jersey with their own pantheons. Consider the eclectic group at rest in Hillside Cemetery in Lyndhurst: the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet William Carlos Williams and both founders of the former industrial giant Becton-Dickinson, Maxwell Becton and Fairleigh Dickinson, for whom the New Jersey university is named. Three years ago, they were joined by the seminal punk rocker Joey Ramone, whose birth name was Jeffry Hyman."
- ↑ Allmusic.com—Joey Ramone
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