Jeffrey Ross Hyman (May 19, 1951 – April 15, 2001), known professionally as Joey Ramone, was an American musician and singer-songwriter, lead vocalist of the punk rock band the Ramones. Joey Ramone's image, voice, and tenure as front man of the Ramones made him a countercultural icon.
Jeffrey Ross Hyman was born on May 19, 1951, in Queens, New York to a Jewish family. His parents are Charlotte (née Mandell) and Noel Hyman. The family lived in Forest Hills, Queens New York where Hyman and his future Ramones bandmates attended Forest Hills High School. Though happy, Hyman was something of an outcast, diagnosed at 18 with obsessive–compulsive disorder. He grew up with his brother Mickey Leigh. His mother, Charlotte Lesher, divorced her first husband, Noel Hyman. She married a second time but was widowed by a car accident while she was on vacation.
Hyman was a fan of the Beatles, The Who, David Bowie, and the Stooges among other bands, particularly oldies and the Phil Spector-produced "girl groups". His idol was Pete Townshend of the Who, with whom he shared a birthday. Hyman took up the drums at 13, and played them throughout his teen years before picking up an acoustic guitar at age 17.
In 1972 Hyman joined the glam punk band Sniper. Sniper played at the Mercer Arts Center, Max's Kansas City and the Coventry, alongside the New York Dolls, Suicide, and Queen Elizabeth III. Hyman played with Sniper under the name Jeff Starship. Mickey Leigh: "I was shocked when the band came out. Joey was the lead singer and I couldn't believe how good he was. Because he'd been sitting in my house with my acoustic guitar, writing these songs like 'I Don't Care', f*ing up my guitar, and suddenly he's this guy on stage who you can't take your eyes off of." Hyman continued playing with Sniper until early 1974, when he was replaced by Alan Turner.
In 1974, Jeffrey Hyman co-founded the punk rock band the Ramones with friends John Cummings and Douglas Colvin. Colvin was already using the pseudonym "Dee Dee Ramone" and the others also adopted stage names using "Ramone" as their surname: Cummings became Johnny Ramone and Hyman became Joey Ramone. The name "Ramone" stems from Paul McCartney: he briefly used the stage name "Paul Ramon" during 1960/1961, when the Beatles, still an unknown five-piece band called the Silver Beetles, did a tour of Scotland and all took up pseudonyms; and again on a 1969 Steve Miller album where he played the drums on one song using that name.
Joey initially served as the group's drummer while Dee Dee Ramone was the original vocalist. However, when Dee Dee's vocal cords proved unable to sustain the demands of consistent live performances, Ramones manager Thomas Erdelyi suggested Joey switch to vocals. After a series of unsuccessful auditions in search of a new drummer, Erdelyi took over on drums, assuming the name Tommy Ramone.
The Ramones were a major influence on the punk rock movement in the United States, though they achieved only minor commercial success. Their only record with enough U.S. sales to be certified gold was the compilation album Ramones Mania. Recognition of the band's importance built over the years, and they are now regularly represented in many assessments of all-time great rock music, such as the Rolling Stone lists of the 50 Greatest Artists of All Time and 25 Greatest Live Albums of All Time, VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock, and Mojo's 100 Greatest Albums. In 2002, the Ramones were voted the second greatest rock and roll band ever in Spin, trailing only the Beatles.
In 1996, after a tour with the Lollapalooza music festival, the band played their final show and then disbanded.
Joey Ramone died of lymphoma at New York-Presbyterian Hospital on April 15, 2001, a month before he would have turned 50, seven years after he had been diagnosed with the disease. He was reportedly listening to the song "In a Little While" by U2 when he died. In an interview in 2014, Bono confirmed that Joey Ramone's family told him that Ramone listened to the song before he died, which Andy Shernoff (The Dictators) also confirmed.
His solo album Don't Worry About Me was released posthumously in 2002, and features the single "What a Wonderful World", a cover of the Louis Armstrong standard. MTV News claimed: "With his trademark rose-colored shades, black leather jacket, shoulder-length hair, ripped jeans and alternately snarling and crooning vocals, Joey was the iconic godfather of punk."
On November 30, 2003, a block of East 2nd Street in New York City was officially renamed Joey Ramone Place. It is the block where Hyman once lived with bandmate Dee Dee Ramone and is near the former site of the music club CBGB, where the Ramones got their start. Hyman's birthday is celebrated annually by rock 'n' roll nightclubs, hosted in New York City by his brother and, until 2007, his mother, Charlotte Joey Ramone is interred at Hillside Cemetery in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.
In 2001, the Ramones were named as inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, prior to the ceremony held early the following year.
Several songs have been written in tribute to Joey Ramone. Tommy, CJ and Marky Ramone and Daniel Rey came together in 2002 to record Jed Davis' Joey Ramone tribute album, The Bowery Electric. Other tributes include "Hello Joe" by Blondie from the album The Curse of Blondie, "Don't Take Me For Granted" by Social Distortion, "Here's To You" by Minus3, "You Can't Kill Joey Ramone" by Sloppy Seconds, Joey by Raimundos, "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" by Sleater-Kinney, "Red and White Stripes" by Moler and "Joey" by the Corin Tucker Band, "I Heard Ramona Sing" by Frank Black, and Amy Rigby's "Dancin' With Joey Ramone". In addition, Rammstein also ended several shows of their Mutter tour in 2001 with a cover of "Pet Sematary" in honor of the passing of Joey Ramone. As the tour went on, the song became a staple of their show, and they featured guest musicians such as CJ and Marky Ramone, Clawfinger vocalist Zak Tell, and Jerry Only of The Misfits.
In September 2010, the Associated Press reported that "Joey Ramone Place," a sign at the corner of Bowery and East Second Street, was New York City's most stolen sign. Later, the sign was moved to 20 feet above ground level. Drummer Marky Ramone thought Joey would appreciate the fact that his sign would be the most stolen, adding "Now you have to be an NBA player to see it."