Johnny Ramone is dead at 55 -- The guitarist and cofounder of the Ramones died in his sleep after a long battle with prostate cancer

By Mickey O'Connor
September 16, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Johnny Ramone: Dimitrios Kambouris-Fashion Wire Daily/AP

Johnny Ramone, the guitarist and cofounder of the seminal punk band the Ramones, has died of prostate cancer, according to the Associated Press. He was 55. Ramone, whose birth name was John Cummings, died in his sleep at his Los Angeles home surrounded by his wife, Linda, and friends including Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, Rob Zombie, Lisa Marie Presley, Vincent Gallo, Pete Yorn, and Talia Shire.

Founded in 1974, the band of four moptop rockers defined the New York punk scene of the late 1970s and early ’80s. They took the common surname Ramone to create amped-up pop songs like ”I Wanna Be Sedated” and ”Rock and Roll High School.” Though they never scored a top 40 song, they influenced the raw sound of bands like Nirvana and Green Day. AP reports that Bruce Springsteen was so impressed by the Ramones that he wrote the song ”Hungry Heart” for the band, before his manager convinced him to keep it for himself. The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Johnny is the third member of the original four Ramones to die in recent years. Singer Joey Ramone (né Jeffrey Hyman) died of lymphatic cancer in 2001; bassist Dee Dee Ramone, born Douglas Colvin, overdosed on drugs a year later. The last surviving member of the original quartet is drummer/producer Tommy Ramone (born Tommy Erdelyi).

Vedder, Zombie, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed at a tribute concert in Los Angeles on Sept. 12 marking the Ramones’ 30th anniversary. Ramone, too sick to attend, spoke to the fans by telephone. A documentary, End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, has just been released in theaters, and former Ramones drummer Marky Ramone has overseen the recent release of a DVD called Ramones Raw.