Ramone memoir reveals charming, grumpy punk icon

Mon May 7, 2012 3:09pm EDT
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By John McCrank

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Johnny Ramone, guitarist for seminal punk band the Ramones, pioneered a fast, no-nonsense sound that made him one of the most influential guitarists of all time.

"Commando: the Autobiography of Johnny Ramone," released nearly 8 years after Ramone, born John Cummings, died of prostate cancer at age 55, reads like a Ramones song: short and to the point, but with plenty of color to keep things interesting.

The book, recently published by Abrams Image, was written from a series of interviews Ramone gave in the final years of his life for the purposes of a memoir.

"He wanted to have his last words because he knew he was dying and he was always kind of a misunderstood character," Ramone's wife, Linda Cummings Ramone, said in an interview.

Linda enlisted author and former Black Flag singer, Henry Rollins, as well as her manager, John Cafiero, to put together the 176-page book, which is peppered with photos and collected memorabilia.

The result is a raw telling of Ramone's life story, from a blue collar New York upbringing playing baseball and roughing up neighborhood kids, to early Ramones gigs with Blondie and The Talking Heads at punk-rock bastion venue CBGBs.

It also sheds light on the ongoing tensions that took place within the band, and his more than 20-year romance with Linda, who once dated his former friend and bandmate Joey Ramone.

"When I left Joey to go with Johnny, it was intense, because nobody wanted the band to break up. The band was always first," Linda said.   Continued...

Linda Ramone, the widow of the late punk guitarist Johnny Ramone, poses next to a statue in his likeness, after unveiling it during a ceremony at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, California, January 14, 2005. REUTERS/Jim Ruymen JR/HB