Lead singer for the enormously influential three-chord punk
band The Ramones
. Born Jeffrey Hyman on May
in Forest Hills
, New York
Honestly, if my name was Jeffrey Hyman, I'd change it to "Joey Ramone" too.
A little over a year after I wrote that terse and flippant entry above, Joey Ramone was dead. And I thought: Can't I do any better than that? So I sat down and I wrote this:
Joey Ramone was an impossibly tall, pasty-faced, skinny geek with granny sunglasses and a funny voice that sounded like he had a mouth full of marbles. (One of my favorite parts in Rock 'n' Roll High School is when he delivers a line containing the name "Mister McGree" and it comes out "Mis'r MuhGloob".) In the early days he sang with what was allegedly a fake British accent but just sounded odd. I remember one of the other Ramones describing Joey's performance in another band before they got together, in which Joey simulated onstage sex with a vacuum cleaner.
I saw them in 1984 during their Too Tough To Die tour. I was a senior in high school and the Ramones were my favorite band. During "Surfin' Bird", the stage slowly filled up with fog. The band was completely obscured. Then the guitar and bass fell silent and the drummer started a steady, pounding rhythm. Joey's leather-gloved fist was all we could see, stabbing out of the fog with every beat. Slowly the fog receded to reveal his looming figure.
The drums stopped and Joey started, quiet at first, his voice slowly rising: "Pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa...MA-MOW MOW, PAPA OOM MOW MA-MOW!" The band roared to life and we all went nuts.
Joey was never afraid to look ridiculous, and that is what made him one of the greatest rock stars ever.