`Just Do It' like Joey Ramone
Joey Ramone died recently. He was the first of my musical heroes to pass on, although more will undoubtedly join him in the near future, succumbing to old age and the ill effects of their rock and roll lifestyle.
Joey's death prompts me to ponder The Ramones's place in musical history and their influence upon a legion of fans.
The Ramones are often credited with saving rock and roll; they came about in the mid-1970s, during a time when rock was in danger of drowning in its own excesses, epitomized by the 20-minute guitar solo, supergroups and the songwriting of Neil Diamond.
The band sought to inject fun back into the music, to rediscover the stomp, recklessness and raucousness of rock's pioneers — Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.
Fueled by ambition, but almost entirely devoid of musical ability, the Ramones soldiered on, playing original songs from the outset, primarily because they weren't capable of playing anyone else's. These songs — "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Beat on the Brat," "Judy is a Punk," et cetera — and the attitude behind them (that experience and musical proficiency aren't prerequisites for making great music) jumpstarted the punk movement of the late 1970s, inspiring bands such as the Sex Pistols and the Clash.
This attitude — "Just Do It" decades before Nike made it a slogan — will serve as The Ramones's most lasting legacy. It reminds us that sometimes it's best not to know exactly what you're doing, to leap before you look, throw yourself into the moment, grit your teeth, try your best and see how far it takes you.
April 17, 2001
All Viewpoint Stories for Wednesday, April 18, 2001