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Final founding Ramones member, Tommy Ramone dead at 65

Friday July 11, the last surviving founding member of punk rock godfather’s The Ramones, Tommy Ramone, was found dead at 65 in his home in Queens, New York. The drummer was under hospice care following treatment of bile duct cancer, known as cholangiocarcinoma that was unsuccessful.

Tommy Ramone
Photo by Karl Walter

Tommy, whose birth name is Erdelyi Tamas, was born in Budapest, and emigrated to the United States with his family at age four. His parents were survivors of the Holocaust, but many of his relatives were victims of the Nazi’s. Ramone’s childhood was spent in Forest Hills, New York, where he would meet the other original members of the band.

Johnny Ramone, then known as John Cummings, played in the Tangerine Puppets in the mid 1960’s with Erdelyi while still in high school. Erdelyi was an assistant engineer for the production of the Jimi Hendrix album “Band of Gypsys” in 1970. In 1974 at the formation of the Ramones, it was originally intended for him to be the band’s manager, but after it became apparent that Joey Ramone could not perform both lead vocals and drums, Erdelyi was drafted and became Tommy Ramone.

From 1974 to 1978, Tommy Ramone co-produced and performed on all three of the bands early albums, as well as, “It’s Alive”, the Ramones live album. The bands sound, Ramone told in a BBC interview, was heavily influenced by the New York Dolls, Lou Reed, and Andy Warhol.

“The scene that developed at CBGB wasn't [for] a teenage or garage band,” said Tommy Ramone in the 2007 interview, “there was an intellectual element and that's the way it was for The Ramones."

The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, a year after Joey Ramone died of cancer. Two months later, Dee Dee Ramone would be found dead of a heroin overdose. Johnny Ramone died in 2004 of cancer.

“Oh, wow, it was real. We were as good as we thought we were,” Tommy told Rolling Stone in an interview after the induction, “It meant a lot to us. 'Wow, all that was worth it. We weren’t kidding ourselves.' It meant something in that way."

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