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By: Will Lamborn

On May 19th, 2008, the 8th annual Joey Ramone Birthday Bash will once again bring together fans, friends, and music luminaries to commemorate the late punk rock icon.  For the fourth consecutive year, the show will be held at the Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza.

Jayne County (click to enlarge)

Joey Ramone had hoped to attend the inaugural Birthday Bash, thrown by his mother Charlotte Lesher and brother Mickey Leigh in May 2001 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, but he succumbed to lymphoma only a month beforehand after a 7-year battle with the disease. As they had promised, Mickey and Charlotte carried out the celebration, with proceeds going towards lymphoma research. At the Hammerstein, old CBGB friends Blondie cruised through some of their classics before closing with a cover of the Ramones “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”.  British punk pioneers the Damned hopped the pond to pay their respects, while Cheap Trick rolled out “Surrender” and other old favorite songs of the Ramones’ singer. Patti Smith Group guitarist and Nuggets compiler Lenny Kaye, Voidoid and founding member of Television Richard Hell, former Ramones manager Danny Fields, and Punk Magazine co-founder Legs McNeil all shared words, song and even old recorded phone messages from Joey.  The show concluded with an instrumental track of “I Wanna Be Sedated” played over an empty stage, inviting the crowd sing along and actively take part.

New York Dolls (click to enlarge)

In subsequent years, newer groups from Alkaline Trio and the Bouncing Souls to the Strokes have shared the birthday bill with Wayne Kramer of MC5, Richard Lloyd of Television, and members of seminal punk groups the Dictators and Dead Boys.  The 2007 show featured the New York Dolls, NYC punks the Bullys, and Slinky Vagabond, a new group featuring former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock and Blondie's Clem Burke.

While the 2001 inaugural celebration had to take place without the venerated guest of honor, the event was in reality a logical extension of the “Joey Ramone Presents…” birthday celebrations Joey began throwing himself in the mid-nineties, inviting both famous friends and lesser known younger bands.  Hosted at Coney Island High in New York, the 1997 edition included appearances by Dee Dee Ramone, 22 Jacks, and the Independents.  Ronnie Spector also performed, harking back to the inspiration the Ramones initially found in the girl groups of the 60s such as The Ronettes.

The years since have seen the passing of many members of the Ramones family. Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone, and CBGB’s Hilly Kristal have died, and Charlotte Lesher passed in January 2007.  Now twelve years beyond the Ramones last live performance, over thirty since their first record, and 8 years after Joey Ramone’s passing, fans and musicians alike will assemble to remember Joey and the music he and his friends from Queens let loose upon the world around them.



All opinions expressed by Will Lamborn are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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