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Joey Ramone (May 19, 1951 - April 15, 2001), born as Jeffry Ross Hyman, was a vocalist and songwriter best known for his work in the punk rock group the Ramones. He and bandmate Johnny Ramone (né John Cummings) were the only two original members who stayed with the band until their retirement in 1996.
Hyman stood at 6 ft. 6 in (1.98 metres) tall as a consequence of Marfan syndrome. He had a long shock of black hair that almost completely obscured his face. Few photographs exist of him without his well-known attributes. He suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder for which he checked himself into clinics when symptoms became unbearable.
Hyman grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, of Jewish heritage. He and future bandmates attended Forest Hills High School.
During his youth, he was by general accounts something of an outcast and had a dysfunctional family life; which inspired the song "We're A Happy Family." His parents divorced in the early 1960s. His mother, Charlotte Lesher (1926-2007), encouraged an interest in music in both him and his brother Mitchell (a.k.a. Mickey Leigh).
He was a fan of The Who, among other bands (particularly "oldies" and the Phil Spector produced "Girl Groups"). He took up drums at 13, playing throughout his teen years, and originally was the drummer for the Ramones, while Dee Dee Ramone was the vocalist. However, Dee Dee proved to be unsuited for the position, so upon Tommy Ramone's suggestion, Joey switched to vocals.
Hyman was said to be the "heart and soul" of the Ramones, and his favorite songs from their repertoire often were the ballads and love songs. C.J. Ramone called him the "hippie of the group."
Hyman did not speak to guitarist Cummings (Johnny Ramone) for many years. This animosity began when Cummings "stole" Hyman's girlfriend Linda, whom Cummings later married. Cummings discusses this animosity in End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones. The documentary also claims that love triangle prompted Hyman to write "The KKK Took My Baby Away" for the Pleasant Dreams album. They also were strongly averse to each other's politics, Hyman being a liberal while Cummings was a staunch conservative. The pair never truly resolved their differences.
In 1985, Joey joined Little Steven Van Zandt's music-industry activist group Artists United Against Apartheid which acted against the Sun City resort in South Africa. Joey and forty-nine other top recording artists, including Springsteen, U2, Bob Dylan and Run DMC, collaborated on a song called "Sun City" in which they pledged they would never perform at the resort.
In 1994, he formed Sibling Rivalry with his brother Mickey Leigh. They had one release, the In a Family Way EP.
Joey appeared on the Helen Love album Love and Glitter, Hot Days and Music singing the track Punk Boy. Helen Love returned the favour, singing on Joey's song Mr. Punchy.
Hyman co-wrote and recorded the song "Meatball Sandwich" with Youth Gone Mad. For a short time before his death, he took the role of manager and producer for the punk rock group The Independents Independents band Bio.
His last recording as a vocalist was singing backup vocals on the CD One Nation Under by the Dine Navajo rock group Blackfire. He appeared on two tracks, "What Do You See" and "Lying to Myself". The CD, released in 2002, won "Best Pop/Rock Album of the Year" at the 2002 Native American Music Awards.
Joey Ramone's vocal style was unorthodox in that he had no formal training in an era where vocal proficiency was a normality for most rock bands. His signature cracks, hiccups, snarls, crooning and youthful voice became 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 Joey's initial melodic and callow style-two notable tracks serving as examples are Somebody Put Something in My Drink and Mama's Boy.
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