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Two Birthday Tributes Planned For Joey Ramone

Two New York tribute events are in the works for May 19, which would have been late Ramones frontman Joey Ramone’s 51st birthday, Billboard.com has learned. Ramone’s mother Charlotte Lesher and brother Mickey Leigh are organizing a benefit concert at the Bowery Ballroom, which will raise funds for the not-for-profit Joey Ramone Cure for Lymphoma fund. Lineup and ticket information is still being finalized.

Just up the road at the city’s legendary CBGB club, Ramones creative director Arturo Vega will stage the Bowery Electric Festival. Last month, Vega supervised the recording of “The Bowery Electric,” a tribute song penned in Joey’s honor by New York singer/songwriter Jed Davis and featuring Tommy Ramone on percussion, Marky Ramone on drums, CJ Ramone on bass, Ramones producer Daniel Rey on guitar, and Davis on vocals/keyboards. Tommy and CJ had never previously recorded together.

The track will be released as the A-side of single in June, with the B-side to be drawn from submissions to the Ramones’ official Web site. Vega tells Billboard.com he is looking for bands to submit tracks inspired by the memory of Ramone, who died of lymphoma last April. Ten finalists will perform live at the Bowery Electric Festival, as will Davis, who will be backed by CJ Ramone and possibly Marky, according to Vega.

“We actually have an open stage invitation for Joey’s friends to come and do whatever they want – to just say a few words or do whatever they do,” Vega says. A panel of judges will select which of the submissions will appear as the B-side to “The Bowery Electric,” although Vega says the audience will choose a “popular vote” winner, who will receive a Ramones memorabilia item.

The event will also feature a raffle with a grand prize of a poster signed by the surviving Ramones. Next door at CB’s Gallery, Dee Dee Ramone’s paintings will be on display. Vega encourages fans to submit their own work as well for possible exhibition. Dee Dee’s artwork will adorn the packaging of the single, which Vega expects to be released on the White Jazz label in Europe and an as-yet-undecided label in the U.S.

Joey’s 50th birthday was marked last year by the “Life’s a Gas” concert at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, which featured performances from Cheap Trick, Blondie, and the Damned, among others.

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