Jeffrey Ross Hyman, known professionally as Joey Ramone, was an American musician and singer-songwriter who served as lead vocalist of the seminal punk rock band the Ramones. Joey Ramone's image, voice, and tenure as frontman of the Ramones made him a countercultural icon.
Jeffrey 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 diagnosed at 18 with obsessive–compulsive disorder and was somewhat an outcast in school. Jeffrey's mother, Charlotte Lesher, divorced his father and married a second time, but was widowed when her second husband was killed in a car accident.
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.
Ramone's voice was within a tenor range. His signature cracks, hiccups, snarls, crooning and youthful voice made his one of punk rock's most recognizable voices. Allmusic.com claims that
Joey Ramone's signature bleat was the voice of punk rock in America. As his vocals matured and deepened through his career, so did the Ramones' songwriting, leaving a notable difference from his initial melodic and callow style.
In 1974, 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.
Jeffrey 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 Hyman 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 while active. 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.
Jeffrey Hyman died of lymphoma at New York-Presbyterian Hospital on April 15, 2001; a month before he would have turned 50 and seven years after he had been diagnosed with the disease.
Sex & drugs & herring rolls: Punk’s Jewish roots revealed, Independent, (February 26, 2014);
Punk Rock's Secret Jewish Roots, Haaretz, (July 21, 2009);