Last of the original Ramones dies at 62

Tommy Ramone in 2005. (Reuters)

Tommy Ramone in 2005. (Reuters)

Tommy Ramone, the drummer and last surviving member of the hugely influential American punk band The Ramones, has died at the age of 62.

The band announced his death on Saturday on Twitter.

Entertainment magazine Variety reported that he died on Friday at his New York home following treatment for cancer.

His death has been confirmed by Dave Frey, director at Ramones Productions, the company that controls the band’s copyright. Frey declined to provide additional information.

New York Rocker magazine publisher Andy Schwartz posted a statement on Facebook saying that Tommy, who acted at various times as a songwriter, producer and engineer, had died at 12.15pm local time at his home in Queens.

Ramone had been in hospice care following treatment for cancer of the bile duct and is survived by Claudia Tienan, his partner of 40 years, and other family members including nephews Eric and David, according to Schwartz.  

In recent years, Tommy and Tienan performed and recorded as the indie-acoustic country and bluegrass duo Uncle Monk, said Schwartz.

Born Thomas Erdelyi in Budapest, Hungary, Ramone was a co-founder and the band’s drummer from 1974 to 1978. He was the last surviving member of the original quartet.

The four founding members, who all took on the last name of Ramone, formed the band in the mid-1970s and emerged as a fixture of the New York punk underground. With mops of long hair, black leather jackets, torn jeans and sneakers, they deeply influenced punk rockers in the United Kingdom and the “power pop” of ensuing decades.

The Ramones made it big with their first three albums: Ramones (1976), which included their first single hit, Blitzkrieg Bop; Leave Home (1977); and Rocket to Russia (1977).

“The Ramones revitalised 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 in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. 

When their first album appeared, “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.”

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 adviser until 1984.

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

Lead vocalist Joey Ramone died of lymphoma in 2001, bass guitarist and vocalist Dee Dee Ramone died in 2002 of a heroin overdose and guitarist Johnny Ramone died of prostate cancer in 2004.

“It wasn’t just music in The Ramones: it was an idea,” the band’s Facebook entry read, citing Erdelyi 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.”

The Ramones were seen as masters of minimalist, 2.5-minute tunes played at hyperkinetic tempo, such as Blitzkrieg Bop, I Wanna be Sedated and Sheena is a Punk Rocker. – Reuters, AFP

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