comments_image Comments

Last original member of The Ramones punk band dies

Tommy Ramone, former drummer with punk band The Ramones, performing with indie-acoustic band Uncle Monk at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, California on April 29, 2012
File photo taken on April 29, 2012 shows Tommy Ramone, former drummer with the punk band The Ramones, performing with indie-acoustic band Uncle Monk at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, California

Drummer Tommy Ramone, the last original member of the pioneering US punk band The Ramones that revitalized rock and roll with its raw energy and unbridled brashness, has died in New York at the age of 65.

Born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest, Hungary, Ramone passed away Friday at his New York home following treatment for cancer, the entertainment magazine Variety reported.

His death was confirmed to the Los Angeles Times by the band's manager with Silent Partner Management, as well as on the group's Twitter and Facebook pages.

"We are saddened to announce the passing of Ramones founding drummer Tommy (Erdelyi) Ramone," the band's Twitter feed said.

The four original members, who all took on the last name Ramone, formed the band in the mid-1970s and came to be a fixture of the New York punk underground.

The band jolted a rock music industry that had become somnambulent and predictable.

"Bands like the Eagles and the Who sounded weak, Pink Floyd sounded mannered, Zeppelin almost flatulent," wrote noted US music writer Bill Wyman.

By contrast, "the Ramones were an underground band playing underground music with a big-beat sound, the vocals mixed friendly and high. They weren't trying to be obscurantists or art victims; they were pop-meisters."

The group made it big with their first three albums: "Ramones" (1976) -- which included their first single hit, "Blitzkrieg Bop" -- as well as "Leave Home" and "Rocket to Russia," both from 1977.

"The Ramones revitalized rock and roll at one of its lowest ebbs, infusing it with punk energy, brash attitude and a loud, fast new sound," reads the band's biography on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's website.

When their first album appeared, it said, "the rock scene in general had become somewhat bloated and narcissistic. The Ramones got back to basics: simple, speedy, stripped-down rock and roll songs."

- 'Foundation of punk-rock' -

Uncle Monk performs on stage at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at The Empire Polo Club on April 29, 2012 in Indio, California
Uncle Monk performs on stage at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at The Empire Polo Club on April 29, 2012 in Indio, California

While the first album was not a commercial success, it was widely considered as having a seminal influence on the growth of punk-rock music. The album topped SPIN magazine's list of 50 Essential Punk Records.

The band's biggest hits -- "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue," "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" and "I Wanna be Sedated" -- never dominated the Top 50 but influenced several generations of rockers, including U2.

"The Ramones' music is the foundation of punk-rock; without it, bands from the Sex Pistols to Green Day would not sound the same," renowned New York Times music critic Jon Pareles once wrote.

The Ramones had a particularly powerful impact on the British rock scene.

In the introduction of his book "Punk: The Brutal Truth," British rock critic Paul du Noyer described The Ramones as "a New York act that inspired the British scene into being and whose stripped-down musical minimalism remains the essence of the genre."

"Like Motörhead, a band from the neighboring territory of hard rock, The Ramones endure as an iconic name, whose logo alone can sell a million T-shirts because it represents an attitude to life."

Tommy Ramone, who "anchored the frantic beat with superhuman energy," surrendered his drumsticks to a new drummer, Marky Ramone, in 1978, but remained as the band's co-producer and advisor through 1984, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame..

The Ramones disbanded in 1996, and the band was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Lead vocalist Joey Ramone died in 2001, followed by bassist and songwriter Dee Dee Ramone the following year and guitarist Johnny Ramone in 2004.

"It wasn't just music in The Ramones: it was an idea," the band's Facebook entry reads, citing Tommy from 1978.

"It was bringing back a whole feel that was missing in rock music –- it was a whole push outwards to say something new and different. Originally it was just an artistic type of thing; finally I felt it was something that was good enough for everybody."

A private funeral is planned, according to Variety.