Dee Dee Ramone was a tremendous character. Aside from being the bass player in the iconic New York punk band The Ramones, he was also the band’s primary songwriter in his career with the band, which stretched from 1974 to 1989.
His life walking the streets of the big apple informed the band’s varying and often darkly sardonic lyrics. His songs had themes ranging from male prostitution to politics and even more banal subjects, such as visiting Rockaway Beach, the hometown of Joey Ramone.
He was initially the band’s lead singer until they quickly discovered that he couldn’t sing and play the bass at the same time. This resulted in the band’s original drummer, Joey, taking on the vocal duties — and what a decision that turned out to be.
It was also Dee Dee who first suggested adopting the band name The Ramones after reading that ex-Beatle Paul McCartney checked into hotels under the alias ‘Paul Ramon’. He added the ‘e’ to the end of the surname, and all members of the band agreed to adopt the surname as an embodiment of their unity.
The Ramones’ unity would become increasingly fractured over their career, a factor that would lead to the group having a revolving lineup. By 1987, Dee Dee had found himself particularly fed up with punk. Typically, Dee Dee, he surprised us all with his brief foray into the world of rap. After quitting the iconic punks in 1989, he said: “I got tired of the Ramones around the time I quit and I really got into rap. I thought it was the new punk rock. LL Cool J was my biggest idol.”
Dee Dee’s head was turned by rap a few years before he quit the band. Around that time, he was trying to stay sober from his heroin addiction, as each member of the band was trying to fight their own respective addictions and demons.
Allegedly, Dee Dee showed up to rehearsals one day, donning gold chains and spiky hair and told them definitively that he was going to be a rapper. Then, he attempted to moonlight as one. Under the moniker ‘Dee Dee King’, he released the album Standing in the Spotlight in 1987.
He released the single ‘Funky Man’, and it is so terrible that it is widely regarded as one of the worst musical efforts of all time, and the chorus is hilariously bad. I thought they said he was trying to get over the drugs? Unsurprisingly, the album failed miserably. He then swiftly returned to what he knew best; punk. Dee Dee had a variety of short-lived projects, including Sprokkett and a brief tenure with GG Allin’s band. Ironically, he then continued to play songs he wrote for the Ramones with his band The Spikey Tops.
A true legend, this strange dalliance with rap isn’t a blight on Dee Dee’s career; instead, it serves to create a larger than life caricature of him, making him one of the most unique and hilarious characters ever to have existed in rock.
Listen to ‘Funky Man’ below.