Celebrate Johnny Ramone!

johnnyramoneQuick. Who’s the most influential guitarist in punk music?

There’s a short list, and Johnny Ramone is certainly deserving of a spot. Born John Cummings this week in 1948, Ramone’s pulsing buzzsaw guitar playing cemented both the sound of his own band and countless imitators that came in the Ramones’ wake.

Ramone was a fairly complicated and difficult character (even by the standards of the notoriously dysfunctional Ramones), and maintained terrible-to-non-existent relationships with his bandmates. Actually, most people aside from his immediate family found him kind of unpleasant.

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However, those traits that made Ramone difficult to work with also made him extremely successful. He was responsible for the all-for-one gang mentality of the Ramones, which only enhanced their status as a force greater than the sum of their parts.

Johnny Ramone was precise, almost militaristic in his playing, and it’s hard to pick one person with a more distinctive guitar sound. Downstroked 16th notes played with maximum distortion and speed? That’s Johnny.

Sadly, like the rest of the original group’s lineup, Johnny Ramone is no longer with us. He succumbed to prostate cancer in 2004 at the age of 55. Luckily, his birthday is today, so all of us punk fans should do a little something special on that day just to honor our roots. Hardcore? Emo? Grunge? They can all cite the Ramones as trailblazers, and Johnny Ramone’s influence reaches new generations every day.

Now, here’s my favorite Ramones song, “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.”

Photo: By en:User:Mrhyak (Uploaded as en:Image:1983 c.JPG on March 3 2007.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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