It was perhaps unsurprising that Dee Dee died the way he did: he’d been ‘using’ since he was plain old Douglas Colvin, a shit-kicking teen roaming the streets of Queens, New York, in search of something to do. Having moved from Virginia to Berlin as the son of a US soldier and his German wife,
Colvin found himself a bit of an outsider when he returned to America at the age of sixteen. The first ‘brudders’ to hook up with Colvin were similarly ‘alienated’ guitarist John Cummings and as-yet-undecided musician Thomas Erdelyi, two guys with whom he played bass in The Tangerine Puppets, a sort of pre-pubescent Ramones that shared a love of sixties music as well as cheap drugs.
The first genuine Ramones tunes came from early sessions at Cummings’s Forest Hill home. Finding themselves unable to master cover versions of songs, bassist Colvin (shortly to become Dee Dee Ramone) was prompted to write early numbers like "Loudmouth" and "I Don’t Wanna Walk around with You"
With the ungainly Jeff Hyman joining in 1974 as first drummer then singer (Tommy picked up the sticks), the final piece of this perverse jigsaw was now in place and the myth around what became for many the greatest punk-rock band of them all could begin to unfold. Just who were these ‘punk Monkees’ who dressed the same, talked the same and even took the same identity? Well, none other than Dee Dee (Colvin), Joey (Hyman), Johnny (Cummings) and Tommy (Erdelyi): The Ramones had blasted away rock’s cobwebs in just two and a half minutes flat.
"OK … I gotta go now."
Dee Dee’s gravestone at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Dee Dee Ramone guided the band’s music for fifteen years, sometimes with clarity, more often through a drug-fuelled haze. As The Ramones became figureheads of the punk establishment, Dee Dee’s continued dabbling with heroin irritated the hell out of his colleagues (especially Johnny and the cleaned-up Joey) but it was to inform many of their best-loved songs, such as "Glad to See You Go" (1977, written about his junkie exgirlfriend), "I Wanna be Sedated" (1978) and "Chinese Rocks" (1980, co-written with fellow user and ex-New York Doll Johnny Thunders), while "53rd & 3rd" (1976) fuelled some speculation that the bassplayer might have worked as a rent boy at the infamous New York pickup point referred to in the title.
Feeling the strain of a long-term relationship with both his Ramones buddies and the needle, Dee Dee left the band in 1989 (replaced by Chris ‘C J’ Ramone), although he was to reunite with the group in the nineties. A brief, bizarre stint as rapper Dee Dee King on the "Standing in the Spotlight" album (1987) was followed by the formation of two very shortlived acts, The Chinese Dragons and Sprockett. The bassist’s final recorded work was to be with California postpunks Youth Gone Mad in 2002, while The Ramones themselves were finally inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame that March.
On collecting the band’s gong, Dee Dee commented: ‘I would like to thank, uh, myself. Thank you, Dee Dee, you’re very wonderful.’ At about 8.25 on the evening of 5 June, Dee Dee Ramone’s wife Barbara Zampini found the musician lying face down on the sofa in a pool of his own vomit – with heroin balloons and other impedimenta within reach. Within a quarter of an hour, the former Ramone was confirmed dead, from an accidental overdose. His autobiography – which had woven a lurid tale of borderline insanity and chemical dependence, with little emphasis on the music – had suggested that Dee Dee had been completely clear of drugs by 2001.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars - Jeremy Simmonds, 2nd Edition, Chicago Review Press, Incorporated, 2012, page 401-402
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