American punk rock group The Ramones. Left to right: Johnny Ramone, Tommy Ramone, Joey Ramone and Dee Dee Ramone.
(Originally published by the Daily News on April 16, 2001. This was written by Martin Mbugua and Dave Goldiner)
Joey Ramone, the bushy-haired, leather-clad outcast from Queens who helped launch the punk-rock revolution as lead singer of the Ramones, died yesterday of lymphoma. He was 49.
Last night, loved ones and fans around the world mourned the man who helped make songs like “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” and “Rockaway Beach” influential punk classics in the 1970s.
He died at 2:40 p.m. yesterday as U2′s song “In a Little While” played in his room at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
“Just as the song finished, Joey finished,” his mother, Charlotte Lesher, of Queens, told the Daily News last night. “He was too, too young to go, but we’ll always love him. People will never forget his music.”
Joey, who was born Jeff Hyman and was reared in Forest Hills, was heavily medicated when his brother, Nicky, switched on the song as friends and relatives gathered at his bedside. But his mother is certain he heard the music.
“He’s free now,” she said. “He heard it and now he’s gone.”
Their faces hidden behind bushy black bangs and dark sunglasses, the Ramones – four pals who adopted the same last name – burst onto the New York club scene in the mid-’70s.
What they lacked in musical training, Joey, DeeDee, Tommy and Johnnie made up with energy and a rare insight into the workaday world around them.
All drums, bass chords and yelps, they raced through songs in less than two minutes and left fans in the U.S. and England screaming for more.
“They touched a lot of people with their music,” Lesher said. “More people than I ever knew.”
They inspired English punk groups such as the Sex Pistols and the Clash – and even future superstars such as Bruce Springsteen.
They starred in the 1979 cult movie “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,” but never cracked the Top 40 before the band officially broke up in 1996.
Outside CBGB’s, the grungy East Village club the Ramones helped make famous, two candles burned last night as fan Joe Saffer came to remember Joey.
“It’s like the end of all history,” said Saffer, 32, a waiter from Brooklyn. “He saved the music scene, actually.”
CBGB’s owner Hilly Kristal sat mournfully at his desk near the entrance to the club.
“It’s not a happy time,” said Kristal, 69, who booked some of the Ramones’ earliest gigs. “People loved Joey. He was a lovable man, a good man.”
Arturo Vega, the group’s longtime spokesman, dropped by the club, clad in a Ramones sweatshirt, to break the sad news to Kristal.
“I feel like I got off the world,” Vega said. “It’s an ugly feeling that Joey is not here.”