The founding member and drummer of the legendary punk band died in his home, aged 65.
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Tommy Ramone, the original drummer for the Ramones and the band’s last surviving founding member, died on Friday at the age of 65.
“Tom died yesterday, July 11, at 12:15 p.m. at his home in Ridgewood, Queens, ” Andy Schwartz, publisher of New York Rocker magazine, said on behalf of Ramone’s family. “He was in hospice care following treatment for cancer of the bile duct.”
Tommy Ramone, born Erdelyi Tamas in 1949 in Budapest, Hungary to Jewish parents, who immigrated to the US when Ramone was four, was the seminal punk rock group’s drummer from 1974 to 1978. Initially the band’s manager, Tommy assumed the role of drummer – previously occupied by lead vocalist Joey Ramone – well before recording of their first, highly-praised and genre-defining album began.
“What happened was, they just kept playing faster and faster, and I couldn’t keep up on the drums, ” Joey remembered in Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s best-seller book Please Kill Me. “Tommy Ramone, who was managing us, finally had to sit down behind the drums, because nobody else wanted to, ” bassist Dee Dee Ramone added.
Tommy went on to play the drums on the band’s first three studio albums – “Ramones”, “Leave Home” and “Rocket to Russia” – which are regarded by fans and critics as the band’s most quintessential outlets. He also played on the band’s 1979 live record, “It’s Alive”.
While the New York-set 4-piece band, named after a pseudonym Paul McCartney used early in his career, never had a Top 40 hit, recognition of their importance has built over the years. They are mentioned in many assessments of all-time great rock music, such as the Rolling Stone list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock”. In 2002, the band was ranked the second-greatest band of all time by Spin magazine, trailing only the Beatles.
Their combination of short, simple, high-tempo tunes, along with playful lyrics on themes of adolescent angst, has influenced countless musicians, including those who would go on to form bands such as the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Nirvana, Metallica, Green Day and Pearl Jam.
“Our music is an answer to the early Seventies, when artsy people with big egos would do vocal harmonies and play long guitar solos and get called geniuses, ” Tommy, who was the main writer of the band’s early singles, “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”, told Rolling Stone in a feature on the Ramones following the release of their 1976 debut album. “That was bullshit. We play rock & roll. We don’t do solos. Our only harmonics are in the overtones from the guitar chords.”
Tommy left the Ramones in 1978 to concentrate on studio work. He had co-produced four albums for the band and would go on to co-produce their 1984 record “Too Tough to Die”. The following year, he produced the Replacements’ major label debut album, “Tim”, and in 1987, he produced LA punks Redd Kross’ album “Neurotica”. He later joined his longtime partner, singer Claudia Tienan of The Simplistics, to form the bluegrass and country duo Uncle Monk.
The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, a year after vocalist Joey Ramone had died. Bassist DeeDee Ramone died in 2002, and guitarist Johnny Ramone died in 2004.
“When we were inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it meant a lot to us, ” Tommy told Rolling Stone in an interview. “As contradictory as it may sound for a punk group to be getting an award like that, it mattered a lot to us because we knew we were good for the past 25 years or whatever. But it was hard to tell because we never got that much promotion and the records weren’t getting in the stores. We were kinda confused about how good we actually were. We thought we were good, but we could have been deluded. But the fact that we were inducted on the first ballot seemed to say, ‘Oh, wow, it was real. We were as good as we thought we were.’ It meant a lot to us. ‘Wow, all that was worth it. We weren’t kidding ourselves.’ It meant something in that way.”