Joey Ramone Dies of Cancer

April 16, 2001 -- Punk rock pioneer Joey Ramone, who headed influential rock act The Ramones, died Sunday of lymphatic cancer. He was 49.

"Our beloved Joey Ramone passed away this afternoon at 2:40 p.m. in a hospital in New York City where he was being treated for cancer," the band's Web site said. "Joey's loving family was at his bedside."

Ramone, born Jeffrey Hyman, had been fighting the disease since 1995. The Ramones, a group he co-founded in 1974, disbanded the following year.

At first, Ramone drummed for the band — whose original lineup also included Johnny Ramone (John Cummings), Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin), and manager Tommy Ramone (Tom Erdelyi) — but he switched to vocal duties as the band developed its signature fast, stripped-down sound.

The Ramones, who emerged from the borough of Queens, N.Y., became active in New York's punk rock scene and became the first undisputedly punk rock act to sign a record deal when they pacted with Sire Records in 1975.

The stripped-down, two-minute, three-chord pop songs that filled the band's self-titled 1976 album typified the Ramones approach. The simplified energy of the group's music helped reinvigorate rock music, at a time when 10-minute, baroque epics had become common. Though they never had a Top 40 hit in the United States, their influence was widely felt in popular music. They will be eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year.

Ramone was a striking frontman for the band, with his lanky, 6-foot, 3-inch frame, ripped jeans, and raw delivery. Following their debut album, The Ramones went on a tour of England, where they inspired a wave of British punks, including the Sex Pistols, who emerged the following year.

The Ramones averaged an album a year over their 20 years of recording, and, according to The New York Times, the group played more than 2,200 shows.

Ramone is survived by his brother, Mickey Leigh, and his mother.

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