Best known as the founding bassist of New York City punk icons the Ramones, Dee Dee Ramone was also a solo recording artist, painter, and writer. Born Douglas Colvin on September 18, 1951, in Ft. Lee, Virginia, the future Ramone grew up in Berlin, Germany (due to his father's Army career) and his main interest became collecting Third Reich memorabilia. But by the time he was a teenager, his family had relocated to Queens, New York, where Colvin developed an interest in rock music (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix) and picked up the guitar. But eventually, Colvin turned to the seedier side of life, developing an addiction to heroin that would continue to plague him for years, and supporting his habit with street hustling.
By the early '70s, Colvin had become interested in such then-misunderstood acts as the Stooges and the New York Dolls, whose primitive and stripped-down sound was more enticing than the overblown prog rock of the era. During a period where he paid the bills working as a barber, as a post office worker, and on a construction site, Colvin befriended another local Stooges fan, John Cummings. They decided soon thereafter to form a band that reflected the same raw, garage rock sound of the two aforementioned outfits. With Colvin picking up the bass and Cummings the six-string, the Ramones were born shortly thereafter (with Colvin becoming Dee Dee Ramone and Cummings renamed Johnny Ramone). The duo welcomed a drummer by the name of Jeff Hyman, who soon proved too uncoordinated to handle the kit, but switched to being the group's singer (and adopted the name Joey Ramone), while the group's manager, Tom Erdelyi, took over on drums (and became known as...Tommy Ramone).
Although the Ramones would go through several drummers during their career, their instantly recognizable style almost single-handedly helped launch the punk rock movement, as the group signed on with Sire Records and issued such classic recordings as 1976's self-titled debut, 1977's Leave Home and Rocket to Russia, plus 1978's Road to Ruin. While Dee Dee Ramone remained on board for several more releases, he eventually grew weary of the group's expected image (similarly styled long hair, leather jackets, ripped jeans, etc.) and musical style, not to mention that the touring lifestyle was preventing him from living a "clean life." Shortly after the release of 1989's Brain Drain (which included one of their best-known tracks of the '80s, the theme song to the Stephen King book-turned-movie Pet Cemetery), Ramone abruptly left the group. His first post-Ramones project was rap-based and he assumed another alias, Dee Dee King, and issued a lone album, Standing in the Spotlight, which sank from sight upon release. Around the same time, he relocated to Paris, where a proposed punk supergroup comprised of Ramone, ex-Dead Boys frontman Stiv Bators, and ex-New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders failed to get off the ground.
Not much was heard from him in the early '90s, although he was a brief member of shock rockers G.G. Allin & the Murder Junkies and appears in the group's must-see 1993 documentary Hated. Ramone's first real solo album, I Hate Freaks Like You, was released in 1995, and was followed up in 1997 with Zonked. Although no longer a member of the Ramones, Ramone wasn't afraid to look back on his past and he formed a Ramones cover band, the Remainz, alongside such former Ramones members as C.J. and Marky (and the band also featured Ramone's wife Barbara Zampini); in 2000 the Remainz recorded an album's worth of Ramones covers titled Greatest & Latest. The '90s saw Ramone develop a painting hobby and he also became interested in writing books, penning an autobiography, Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones, and the novel Chelsea Horror Hotel. He was also extensively interviewed for the exceptional 1996 book Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk and appeared in the 1999 Johnny Thunders documentary Born to Lose: The Last Rock n' Roll Movie.
In 2002, Ramone and several of the surviving Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sadly, that would be the last public appearance from the bassist, as on June 5th he was found dead in his Hollywood home by Zampini. Of all the original Ramones, Dee Dee was always known as the wildest and most fragile of the four. His shaky relationship with his bandmates and legendary drug binges made him a tragic icon, but his excellent songs have allowed him to enjoy a certain amount of respect both in life and in death. Filmmaker Lech Kowalski released a documentary DVD on Dee Dee's life called Hey Is Dee Dee Home in 2002 and an expanded edition with added short films followed in 2009 under the title History on My Arms. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi