With the passing of Joey Ramone on Sunday, music fans lost a genius who changed the world, according to the many artists – from Blink-182 to the Go-Go’s – who were influenced by the lanky, leather jacket-clad godfather of punk rock.
“I wish I could have met him and told him what a huge influence he had on my life, and what an inspiration his music was, and what a genius he really was,” Blink-182 singer/bassist Mark Hoppus said. “The Ramones came out at a time when music wasn’t being done like that, and they came out with three-chord pop-punk just played exactly the way they wanted it to be. Without the Ramones, there wouldn’t have been three generations of great punk-rock music, and there certainly wouldn’t have been a Blink-182.”
Ramone, born Jeffrey Hyman, died of lymphatic cancer, a disease that attacks the body’s ability to fight infection.
The Ramones are considered the first true punk band, though their catchy melodies, irresistibly inane lyrics and rock and roll attitude inspired artists of all genres.
“They were my first real influence, a bunch of local kids from Queens that made me realize that I could actually start a band myself,” the Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz said.
Joey Ramone was more than just the founder and frontman for the group, he was an icon to his peers, who range from New York art-rockers Patti Smith, Talking Heads and Television to West Coast rebel-rousers X, Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys.
“He was the most important person of the punk scene,” X singer Exene Cervenka said. “More than those other bands, he was the most important person. And he was the symbol, he was definitely the symbol of the punk thing.”
The Ramones changed popular culture tremendously, Cervenka said, and have the best legacy of any punk band.
“The best thing about them was that they didn’t mean to do it,” Cervenka said. “The Ramones were just a band, playing music and having fun, and [yet] it was so important.”
To many, including Bad Religion guitarist and Epitaph Records founder Brett Gurewitz, the Ramones, armed with classics like “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” and “I Wanna Be Sedated,” were the first punk band they ever heard.
“It was hearing the Ramones that made me want to be in a band,” Gurewitz said. “Joey Ramone is the most influential person ever in rock ‘n’ roll. He was a beautiful, loving, funny, intelligent man, and he will be missed.”
Go-Go’s guitarist Charlotte Caffey first saw the Ramones play with Blondie in 1977 at Los Angeles’ Whisky a Go-Go. She went to four shows in two nights.
“I had a life-altering experience,” she said. “These shows ignited something inside of me that led me to write all those songs for the first Go-Go’s record. And to this day, when I hear Joey singing a Ramones song, I am transported to an altered state.”
Ramone did more than just perform. Hilly Kristal, owner of New York’s renowned CBGB club – itself an important factor in the birth of punk music – said the singer spent his later years working with young musicians and keeping punk music alive in New York.
“Joey lived a good life, and he gave back as much as he could,” Kristal said. “He tried to help a lot of new bands. He would throw his birthday parties and have them play, and he would get up and sing with them.”
Kristal said Joey and his bandmates were one of the first underground bands to find other ways to get their music out.
“Joey wrote very catchy songs that were used in commercials and movies,” he said. “Though they never sold millions of records, the Ramones played before crowds of 60 and 70,000.”
As a person, Ramone was known for his kindness and had many friends.
“Joey was a sweet guy, a really sweet guy,” Cervenka said. “Every time I hung out with him … he was just always really happy to see you, really friendly. You felt part of [something]. You felt the punk thing was a family.”
Added rocker Joan Jett: “He was the best person, a terrific artist, a wonderful friend, and a huge influence on my music and career.”