Punk rocker Ramone dies

The Ramones, one of the bands from the original New York City punk scene in the mid-1970s, lost frontman Joey Ramone to lymphatic cancer on Sunday. He was 49.

“Our beloved Joey Ramone passed away this afternoon at 2:40 p.m. (EDT) in a hospital in New York City where he was being treated for cancer,” the official Ramones Web site said.

The Ramones, formed in 1974 in Forest Hills, Queens, NY, rebelled against the grand, overproduced rock of that decade. The antics of the Sex Pistols and the Clash generated more media attention in later years, but like many other British punk rock bands, they received their schooling from the Ramones.

“They changed the world of music,” Arturo Vega, Ramone’s longtime artistic director, said. “They rescued rock ‘n’ roll from pretentiousness and unnecessary adornments.”

With his trademark rose-colored shades, black leather jacket, shoulder-length hair, ripped jeans and vocals, Ramone was the iconic father of punk. He gave voice – sometimes with a snarl – to some of the most revered songs in the punk canon: “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Strength to Endure,” and “Teenage Lobotomy.”

In 1979, Ramone and the band appeared in the Roger Corman-produced Rock N’ Roll High School, contributing the title song to the soundtrack. They also provided the title track for the 1989 film version of Stephen King’s novel Pet Sematary. The band also served as material for many rock bands, such as Skid Row, who featured the band in their cover tune “Psycho Therapy” in the early 1990s.

The band disbanded in 1996 after a tour that followed their final studio album, Adios Amigos. The Ramones were Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Dee Dee Ramon and Tommy Ramone. Marky Ramone later replaced Tommy Ramone.

Since the band’s breakup, MTV reports that Joey Ramone kept a fairly low profile, occasionally popping up to perform or host shows at Manhattan clubs, making occasional radio show appearances, and working on a solo album that was never released.

Joey Ramone was born Jeffrey Hyman on May 19, 1951. His career started during the early 1970s glam-rock era, when he played in several New York bands — occasionally under the name Jeff Starship.

Jari-Pekka Laitio-Ramone, 22, webmaster for a Ramones Internet site, received news of Joey’s illness from Vega in the beginning of March.

On the evening of March 14, Vega told Laitio-Ramone, “Joey watched a tape of The Sopranos; he’s doing better and better.”

Days before his death, Laitio-Ramone was informed that Joey’s condition was very serious, but his doctors thought he could get better.

Ramone did not get better. After being hospitalized in March, Ramone took his last breath at approximately 2:40 p.m. Sunday. His family was at his bedside.

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