Who was Dee Dee Ramone?
“Dee Dee Ramone” was the stage name of Douglas Glenn Colvin, an American singer, musician, and songwriter. He is best known for forming the punk-rock band known as the ‘Ramones,’ which revolutionized the music scene forever. They were an inspiration for many of the rock bands that followed, including the ‘Sex Pistols’ and ‘Green Day.’ He was the band’s bassist, songwriter, and sometimes vocalist. He wrote many of the songs that made the band famous, such as ‘Commando,’ ‘Wart Hog,’ ‘Rockaway Beach,’ ‘Poison Heart,’ and ‘Bonzo Goes to Bitburg’ (later known as ‘My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down’). He won the ‘New York Music Award’ for the ‘Best Independent Single’ in 1986. He tried a solo career and recorded three albums. However, he continued his collaboration with the ‘Ramones’ until their official retirement. He had serious drug problems and died from a heroin overdose in 2002.
Childhood & Early Life
Dee Dee was born Douglas Glenn Colvin, on September 18, 1951, in Fort Lee, Virginia. His mother was German. His father was in the ‘US Army.’ Thus, Dee Dee spent most of his childhood in Berlin, Germany. They actually had to move quite a lot because of that job, so it was hard for Dee Dee to have friends. Another problem that affected his childhood was his father’s alcoholism, which eventually caused his parents’ divorce. When he was 15, he moved to the US with his mother and his sister, and settled down in Forest Hills, New York. He later said in an interview that he hated moving to the US, as people of his age dressed badly and had no culture.
It was in the US that he met his future bandmates, John Cummings and Thomas Erdelyi, who performed as part of the ‘Tangerine Puppets.’ He soon became addicted to drugs and got himself in a lot of trouble. He was a drug dealer, too, and even turned to male prostitution and armed robbery to earn money for his addiction.
He worked at ‘The Bureau of Advertising’ in Manhattan, later known as ‘The Newspaper Advertising Bureau.’ He was a printer’s helper and spent his time with the graphic designers in the art department. He also worked as a barber, a post office worker, and in constructions. He met John Cummings at a construction site.
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John (later known as “Johnny Ramone”) and Dee Dee became friends instantly and decided to form a band together. Soon, they met drummer Jeffrey Hyman, later known as “Joey Ramone,” who eventually became the group’s lead singer, and Thomas Erdelyi, later known as “Tommy Ramone,” who was supposed to be their manager but later became their drummer.
The group’s name was Dee Dee’s idea. He was inspired by Paul McCartney, who used the fake name “Paul Ramon” when he checked into hotels. Thus, the group became the ‘Ramones,’ and all the members adopted “Ramone” as part of their stage names.
Dee Dee either wrote or co-wrote most of their songs, including ‘53rd and 3rd,’ which was a song about male prostitution in Manhattan and was probably based on his personal experience. ‘Glad to See You Go’ was also inspired by his life, more exactly his relationship to a drug-using stripper. ‘Wart Hog’ was another important song in their repertoire, and Dee Dee wrote it while he was in rehab.
He continued to write songs for them even after he left the group. It seems, he even gave them some of his songs in exchange for bailing him out of jail after he was arrested for marijuana possession. That was how the band got the rights to ‘Main Man,’ ‘Strength to Endure,’ and ‘Poison Heart.’
He left the ‘Ramones’ because he felt he needed to find himself and grow up. said he also stated that there were many things about the band he did not like. He wanted a different look and to be able to write songs without having to fit into a certain genre. With that in mind, after leaving the band, he tried to become a rapper, using the name “Dee Dee King.” It, however, was not a success.
In 1992 he tried his luck with another project, forming the band ‘Dee Dee Ramone and the Chinese Dragons.’ The name was a reference to ‘Chinese Rock,’ the song he had written about drug addiction. He did, however, get some success with his next project, ‘Dee Dee Ramone I.C.L.C. (Inter-Celestial Light Commune).’ Their album ‘I Hate Freaks Like You’ was promoted by a tour of 22 countries. During that tour, he met his future wife, Barbara Zampini. The group disbanded when the record label dropped them. However, some of their songs would later be recorded by the ‘Ramones.’
Dee Dee also formed a ‘Ramones’ tribute band with his wife and recorded many single albums. He became a passionate painter, too, and created many works that were sold for hundreds of dollars. He also tried to experiment with acting. However, he had no success, except a role in a low-budget 2002 called ‘Bikini Bandits.’
In the 1990s, Dee Dee even tried to become a writer and wrote an autobiography. It was initially titled ‘My Right to Survive’ but was published as ‘Poison Heart: Surviving the Romones’ in 1998. It was republished as Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones in 2016. He also wrote a novel named ‘Chelsea Horror Hotel.’ He had also written ‘Legend of a Rock Star,’ a book chronicling his European tour of 2001.
Family & Personal Life
Dee Dee Ramone was married twice. In 1978, he got married to Vera Boldis. However, they separated in 1990 because of his drug addiction and mental illness. Their divorce was finalized in 1995. He got involved with Barbara Zampini before his divorce and married her later. Barbara remained with him until his death.
Dee Dee died on June 5, 2002, aged 50. His body was found by his wife in their apartment in Hollywood. He died due to a drug overdose, as the autopsy would later confirm. His obituary in ‘The Guardian’ said that Dee Dee Ramone had changed rock music forever.
In 2002, Lech Kowalski created a documentary about Dee Dee’s life. It was called ‘Hey Is Dee Dee Home’ and was released on DVD.