Celebrating Johnny Ramone

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Johnny Ramone — whose real name was John William Cummings — passed away 13 years ago today from prostate cancer on September 15, 2004.

As the founding guitarist of the Ramones, he was hardly a virtuoso on the instrument. In fact, he never aspired to be anything but a punk guitar player — or to even change up his rhythm assault with anything but his trademark downstrokes. However, he inspired a legion of like-minded players to pick up the guitar, helped provide a generation with some feverishly catchy songs, and was massively responsible for the musical lineage from the Ramones to the Sex Pistols to Green Day to any youngsters today who tread stages with punk angst and energy. 

"Somehow we were different—we appealed to all the misfits of society," Ramone told me during a 2003 interview. "And it seems we were an influence on a lot of bands. A lot of kids went and got guitars—even bands that don't sound anything like us—and they went to see the Ramones, and they started playing because of that. I see it more in retirement than I did when I was doing it. But when you get a chance to sit back, and you have everyone say nice things about you, it's great. A band could put out a record, sell ten-million copies, and never influence anyone. We didn't sell a lot of records, but, somehow, we left an impression."

Here's the Ramone's New Year's Eve 1977 assault on the Rainbow, London... 

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