Tommy Ramone, the last surviving member of punk pioneers The Ramones, died Friday at his home in Ridgewood, Queens. He was 65 years old. Ramone had been receiving hospice care following unsuccessful treatment for bile duct cancer, a disease which ultimately claimed his life.
Born Erdélyi Tamás in Budapest, he took his famous stage name when co-founding The Ramones in 1974. According to rock legend, he was originally tapped as the band’s manager, but later drafted to drum duty when original stickman Joey Ramone couldn’t keep up with the increasingly break-neck tempos. Joey became the lead singer, and with Dee Dee Ramone on bass and Johnny Ramone on guitar, the leather-clad lineup was complete.
Tommy Ramone played on the group’s first three seminal albums, Ramones (1976), Leave Home (1977) and Rocket to Russia (1977), as well as their live opus, It’s Alive! (1979), serving as the engine that sent the band barreling full-spead ahead. He co-produced the latter three records, and eventually left the band in 1978 to pursue studio work. Marc Bell became his replacement, taking on the name Marky Ramone.
Tommy still maintained close relations with his musical brothers, managing the band as well as co-producing 1978’s Road To Ruin and 1984’s Too Tough To Die. Outside of The Ramones, he also produced The Replacement‘s major-label debut, Tim (1985), as well as Redd Kross‘s Neurotica (1987).
After decades of infighting and declining sales, The Ramones played their final show at Hollywood’s Palace venue in 1996. Tragically, there would never be a live reunion of all the original members. Joey Ramone died of lymphoma in 2001, Dee Dee of a heroin overdose in 2002; and Johnny from prostate cancer in 2004. Tommy was on hand when the band was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
In recent years he traded the amped-up electric sound for acoustic, playing bluegrass music with his longtime romantic partner Claudia Tienan in Uncle Monk. Despite the style change, he claimed that it wasn’t too far removed from the loud and aggressive music that made him famous. “There are a lot of similarities between punk and old-time music,” Tommy said in 2006. “Both are home-brewed music as opposed to schooled, and both have an earthy energy. And anybody can pick up an instrument and start playing.”
Tommy Ramone is survived by Tienan, an brother older brother, and late-era Ramones Marky, Richie, C.J. and Elvis.
[Photo: Getty Images]