Dee Dee Ramone, a founding member of punk pioneers the Ramones, died Wednesday night in his Hollywood home, according to a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Coroner's office. The bassist was 50 (see "Dee Dee Ramone Remembered By Kurt Loder").
Ramone (born Douglas Glenn Colvin) was found unresponsive by his wife at 8:25 p.m. She called 911, and fire department paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene at 8:40 p.m.
A coroner's office spokesperson said the case will be treated as a possible accidental drug overdose. Investigators found a syringe and other drug paraphernalia on Ramone's kitchen counter. An autopsy was conducted Thursday, though the cause of death remains unknown, pending the results of toxicology tests by the coroner's pathologist, which normally takes up to six weeks. The process is often expedited, however, when media attention surrounds a case, the spokesperson said.
Dee Dee formed the Ramones in the Forest Hills section of Queens, New York, in 1974 with guitarist Johnny Ramone (John Cummings), drummer Tommy Ramone (Tom Erdelyi) and singer Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman), who died of lymphoma last April (see "Punk Pioneer Joey Ramone Dead At 49"). During his Ramones tenure, Dee Dee wrote or co-wrote such tunes as "Rockaway Beach," "Strength to Endure," "Too Tough to Die," "Teenage Lobotomy," "Psycho Therapy" and "Chinese Rocks."
Dee Dee left the band following the release of 1989's Brain Drain to adopt the persona of rapper Dee Dee King and was replaced by C.J. Ramone (Christopher John Ward).
When his rap debut, 1988's Standing in Spotlight, proved less than successful, he formed the Chinese Dragons.
Dee Dee returned to the Ramones fold in the '90s, penning "Pet Sematary," the group's musical contribution to the Stephen King film of the same name, and several tracks for the Ramones' studio swan song, 1995's Adios Amigos. He reunited with the Ramones in August 1996 for a show at the Hollywood Palace that featured cameo performances by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister, Rancid's Lars Frederiksen and Tim Armstrong, and Soundgarden's Chris Cornell and Ben Shepherd. The performance later resulted in the 1997 live album We're Outta Here!.
"He was a star and the most influential punk rock bassist," Johnny Ramone said in a statement. "I believe he has influenced every kid playing bass that saw him perform. ... He was my friend and I will always miss him."
He last shared a stage with his fellow Ramones in March, when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (see "Vedder Rambles, Green Day Scramble As Ramones Enter Hall").
"I'll never forget Dee Dee's classic acceptance speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony," Ramones manager Gary Kurfirst said in a statement, "when he walked up to the microphone and said, 'I would like to thank myself, and congratulate myself, and if I could, I would pat myself on the back.' That was Dee Dee, direct and to the point. ... Dee Dee Ramone was punk rock. I'm really going to miss him. He was truly a unique individual and there will never be anyone like him."
"He was sort of a wacky guy who wrote great songs," said Deborah Harry, whose band Blondie, like the Ramones, emerged from New York's CBGB scene. "He was a really good songwriter, though a little self-destructive. He was always nice to me, and we always had a good time together. He was a lot of fun.
"He had this sort of manic energy," she added. "I always thought that the Ramones were this tactical force, like the Marines jumping out of a plane or something. They had this focus and energy that I really admired."
"I was still working out the final details on Joey's headstone when I got the shocking word that another brother in our extended family was gone," said Mickey Leigh, Joey Ramone's brother. "For me, he was one of the greatest rock and roll songwriters alive. Today, sadly, another life becomes legend. My heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife, family and friends."
[This story was updated at 12:14 P.M. EST on 06.07.02.]
Joe D'Angelo and Gideon YagoJoe D'Angelo and Gideon Yago