The Legacy


The Ramones

Dee Dee, Marky, Joey and Johnny Ramone stand in front of a brick wall, dressed in their trademark leather jackets.

“Believe it or not, we really loved each other. Even when we weren’t acting civil to each other, we were truly brothers.”
—Tommy Ramone, at The Ramones’ 2002 induction 
    into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

On stage, and on their album covers, The Ramones presented a united front: black leather jackets, Converse sneakers and shaggy bowl haircuts. But the reality was anything but. During their two decades together, The Ramones remained fraught with tension, power struggles and jealousy. Guitarist Johnny attempted to run the band like a dictator, while a revolving door of drummers came and went. Bassist Dee Dee fought heroin addiction for years until he died of an overdose in 2002. Singer Joey never forgave Johnny after Joey’s girlfriend, Linda, left him for Johnny in the early 1980s—the two men never spoke again, even though they continued touring together for years. Yet despite their dysfunctions, The Ramones remained one of the most influential rock bands in American history.

Joey Ramone, wearing sunglasses and a black T-shirt. Joey Ramone
Joey was born Jeffrey Hyman on May 19, 1951 in Forest Hills, Queens. His musical influences while growing up included The Kinks, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Who, and he began playing drums at the age of 13 in emulation of The Who’s Keith Moon, using a snare drum set that he bought with supermarket trading stamps. Rock and roll was a haven during his lonely adolescence, and in adulthood, Joey’s quiet demeanor and embrace of his “freak” status made him a beloved icon. He was regarded as The Ramones’ emblematic spokesman. As rock journalist Legs McNeil said, “Joey took everything that was wrong with him and made it beautiful.” After his death in 2001 from lymphatic cancer at age 49, the surviving Ramones vowed to never perform together again. In November 2003, the city of New York officially re-named the corner of East 2nd Street and The Bowery as “Joey Ramone Place” for its proximity to CBGB’s, where the band first played in 1974.

Johnny Ramone with his famous bowl haircut. Johnny Ramone
Born John Cummings on October 8, 1948, on Long Island, Johnny began playing guitar at 22. Prior to that, he had played bass as a teenager with Tommy Ramone in a band called The Tangerine Puppets. Johnny was known for being tough and being organized, running the band with an iron fist and also trying to hold it together during the turbulent years. The Ramones named their 1985 album Too Tough to Die after he was kicked in the head during a fight and received injuries that required brain surgery. Johnny passed away after a long fight with prostate cancer in September 2004.

Dee Dee Ramone with shorter hair and squareish sunglasses Dee Dee Ramone
Born Douglas Colvin on September 18, 1952 in Virginia, Dee Dee grew up in Berlin, where his army officer father had been stationed, and moved to Queens with his mother following his parents’ divorce. Dee Dee’s childhood in Germany became a recurring theme in his writing, as did his experiences in the streets of New York, where he had hustled for drug money on occasion. He supposedly nicknamed himself “Dee Dee Ramone” so his initials would be “DDR,” the same as the abbreviation for The German Republic. Dee Dee was known as a lyricist, penning many of The Ramones’ songs and singing on multiple recordings. In 1989, he left the band and was replaced by C.J. Ramone. Soon after, Dee Dee recorded a rap album, Standing in the Spotlight, under the moniker Dee Dee King. Dee Dee struggled with substance abuse for decades before he passed away in 2002 from a heroin overdose.

Tommy Ramone, with glasses and a graying beard and mustache. Tommy Ramone
Tommy was born Thomas Erdelyi on January 29, 1952 in Budapest, Hungary. Prior to joining The Ramones, he was a recording engineer who worked with such artists as Jimi Hendrix and Herbie Hancock. Tommy first met The Ramones when running a small rehearsal studio where Johnny, Dee Dee and Joey played as a trio in 1974—with Joey on drums and Dee Dee singing. After deciding that Joey was a better singer than drummer and trying to find a replacement, the group cajoled Tommy into being their drummer. Even if he had never drummed before, he was able to pick it up quickly, and had a reputation for being one of the more responsible band members. As Dee Dee Ramone said, “Tommy was the type of guy, he would buy some potatoes and hamburgers and cook himself a dinner. At 21 years old, that’s a pretty cool thing to do rather than eat some dope and potato chips.” Tommy left The Ramones in 1978, and went on produce several of the band’s albums. He was replaced by Marky Ramone.

Marky Ramone, with long hair and wearing a black T-shirt.  Marky Ramone
Born Marc Bell on July 15, 1956, Marky joined The Ramones in 1978, after recording two hard rock albums with the band Dust when he was 16 and playing drums with Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Marky’s alcoholism led to his departure in 1983, after he missed a concert. He was replaced by Richie Ramone, but returned to the band after Richie quit in 1987. Marky still tours as a drummer with bands such as The Misfits and Marky Ramone and The Speed Kings.

Richie Ramone, clean cut in a suit and tie. Richie Ramone
Born Richie Reinhardt on August 11, 1957, Marky’s replacement on drums was also known as Richie Beau prior to joining The Ramones, when he played with the New York City band The Velveteens. He quit The Ramones unexpectedly in 1987, after which the band was forced to cancel three shows, and was eventually replaced by Marky, who rejoined the band. Although Richie was estranged from the other band members for years, he attended Joey’s funeral in 2001.

C.J. Ramone, with short hair and wearing a baseball cap. C.J. Ramone
Born Christopher Joseph Ward on October 8, 1965 on Long Island, New York, C.J. replaced Dee Dee as The Ramones’ bassist in 1989, and remained with the band until its split in 1996. Prior to joining the band, he was a Marine and a big fan of The Ramones. After The Ramones broke up, C.J. continued to play bass with the metal band Los Gusanos.


Home | The Film | The Ramones | The Music | Filmmaker Bios | Filmmaker Q&A | Learn More | Talkback | Site Credits

Get The Video Talkback Learn More Filmmaker Q&A Filmmaker Bios The Music The Ramones The Film End of the Century Home