Yeah, there were a lot of “Hey, he OD-D’d”gags when Dee Dee Ramone died from a heroin overdose on June 5, 2002. Dee Dee Ramone was no joke, though. In fact, he was probably the most important member of The Ramones. The amiable bass player was just Douglas Colvin back in 1974, though. That’s when the former Army brat–who had mostly grown up in Berlin–landed as a teenager in the New York neighborhood of Forest Hills. He made the right friends when he hooked up with the three guys who later became his bandmates Johnny, Joey, and Tommy.
As a founding member of The Ramones, Dee Dee helped establish the band’s iconic sound by writing “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Over the course of several more albums, it became apparent that Dee Dee was the best songwriter in the band. Then he hooked up with fellow NYC rocker (and frequent Ramones producer) Daniel Rey for a really amazing partnership. Everybody claims to have always loved The Ramones, but there was a time in the mid-’80s when rock critics were goofing on them as dinosaurs. That was the same period that Dee Dee was turning the band into a brilliant act.
Dee Dee was too ambitious for his own good, though. He became a joke when he decided to try becoming a rapper with his ill-fated Standing in the Spotlight album (released under the name of Dee Dee King). Not enough people noticed when he came back strong as a solo artist in 1992. He was fronting a rock band called the Chinese Dragons and looked amazing. By then, he was out of the Ramones–and not particularly missed, since Dee Dee had a real drug problem. The band was still smart enough to keep using songs written by Dee Dee.
Joey and Johnny weren’t sentimental, though. One storyclaims that the duo once bailed Dee Dee out of jail, but only in return for the rights to three of his most popular Ramones songs. It’s still very telling that the final Ramones album–Adios, Amigos!–ends with “Born to Die in Berlin.” That’s one of Dee Dee’s most personal songs.
Here’s the video for one of Dee Dee & Daniel’s greatest hits–but, as noted, it came out during a time when Dee Dee was out of the band. You’re probably only seeing him in this video for “Pet Semetary” because it’s one of his songs. Dee Dee wasn’t even around that much during the recording of the 1989 Brain Drain album. It didn’t matter that “Pet Semetary” would turn out to be one of the Ramones’ rare radio hits. By the time of the other Brain Drain videos, Dee Dee was gone and new bassist C.J. Ramone was being featured. C.J. wasn’t a bad addition, but The Ramones wouldn’t have continued to matter without Dee Dee’s songs…