Joey Ramone was the frontman and songwriter for New York punk rock band The Ramones. Characterized by their short, fast, obnoxious brand of punk and their dark hair, ripped blue jeans, matching leather jackets and sneakers. The Ramones burst on to the scene to give the then popular English brand of punk a very big American fuck you.
The Ramones behaved as one, they shared the same (adopted) last name and took to the stage with unified energy as if they were blood, they carried themselves with the kind of cool that has since become legend. They gained a loyal following of fans who adored their music and adorned themselves in their clothes. The Ramones logo t-shirt is as much a staple punk item nowadays as black jeans, safety pins or Dr Marten’s, but no member was more influential than Joey.
Born Jeffrey Ross Hyman in Queens New York, the tall, skinny and powerfully brooding Joey who stood before his fans was always bound to be an outcast. Joey started life with a conjoined twin that had to be surgically removed at birth, his parents divorced when he was young and at age 18 he was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He was the poster boy for the anti-social non conformist that his middle class Jewish Forest Hills high school would have loathed. Joey initially landed a roll as the bands drummer but switched roles with Bassist Dee Dee when Dee Dee’s voice struggled to hold up to live performances. Joey’s voice arguably wasn’t much better but he powered through forming his own rough, crackly and hiccup laden teenage twang - "All the other singers [in New York] were copying David Johansen (of the New York Dolls), who was copying Mick Jagger... But Joey was unique, totally unique." - Dee Dee Ramone.
Forever described as a bean pole or a skyscraper Joey was bound to stand out and as the band gained traction he quickly found himself heavily photographed amongst the notable names of the time. Whether intentional or a result of his upbringing as an outsider Joey was rarely seen without sunglasses - indoors, outdoors, in bed or on stage it appeared that Joey would never leave the house without his signature round specs, a fact that has been enjoyably documented over the years.
Despite their impact on modern music and their iconic status as the “The Voice of American Punk Rock” the Ramones experienced little commercial success than their modern presence would suggest. They never truly had a hit single and their approach to almost every aspect of being a band saw them rejected by the industry. Their importance grew clearer over the years as recognition of that period and their influence on it grew. This recognition has lead to worldwide appreciation and them featuring heavily in just about any punk tribute piece from Rolling Stone to VH1.
Joey Ramone passed away on April 15th 2001 after a long running battle with Lymphoma - 5 years after their final show, 14 studio albums and 2 decades on the road, it was often joked that Joey had been sick his whole life.