Johnny Ramone gets 'last word,' posthumously
Published: Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 4:45 p.m.
NEW YORK — Eight years after he died of prostate cancer, Johnny Ramone's autobiography is finally being published.
"Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone" is set for release April 2 by Abrams Image. In an interview Tuesday, his widow, Linda, described the book as "kind of his last word that he knew would be out."
"It is a really powerful book because his whole life has gone before him and he knows it's going to come to an end, and he really needs to tell everybody what he's feeling inside, so that's what makes it so amazing," she added later. "That is the biggest, most powerful thing, writing a book when you know you're dying."
Johnny Ramone, whose real name was John Cummings, was one of the founding members of the legendary New York City-based punk band the Ramones, members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Considered one of the most influential guitarists in rock, he died in 2004 at age 55 after battling cancer for five years.
Linda Ramone said he started writing the book when he first became ill: "Johnny's legacy to him was so important, even while he was sick. ... It was like he knew he was dying, and he wanted to do something."
The 176-page book is filled with pictures selected by his wife. It includes Ramone's musings from his childhood to his struggle with cancer. It also features other personal stories, including the attack on him that left him hospitalized, his altercation with Malcolm McLaren and his romance with Linda, who once dated Joey Ramone, the Ramones' frontman, leading to a yearslong rift between the two musicians.
"It's whatever people make out of it. I guess it was some sort of love triangle — Joey, Johnny and me. It happened, and of course he talks about it and he talks about how he feels about it," Linda said. "The three of us all probably have a different story, but this is Johnny's story."
Band mate Tommy Ramone, the only surviving member of the original band, wrote the foreword. In a statement, he said: "Johnny Ramone's autobiography is a no holds barred, straight-forward book written in a no-nonsense style that is Johnny personified. His story is written in his own actual words, so the reader gets an insight into what made him the unique, charismatic and exciting individual that he was. It also gives a great view of The Ramones from Johnny's perspective."
The epilogue was written by close friend Lisa Marie Presley.
Linda Ramone said the book was originally planned to have interviews with Ramone's friends, but she decided to only include her husband's words.
"It didn't make Johnny Ramone's book more powerful by having other people in the book talking about him," she said. "This is nobody else's story. This is Johnny Ramone's story, talking about Johnny Ramone."
She said several factors were responsible for the delay in the book's release, including lawsuits involving the band after Ramone died and other projects she was undertaking for his fans.
"Between all those years of doing different things for his legacy, I always had the book. But there was never the right time for the book," she said.
Linda said her husband never stopped working on the book, even during chemotherapy treatments.
"He wasn't feeling well all the time, but that never stopped Johnny," she said. "Johnny was indestructible."
She hopes to publish another book of photos of Ramone, and hopes the book will lead to a Ramones biopic.
"This is the first book I can honestly see that really has enough in it to make it such an interesting story, because this is Johnny talking about Johnny," she said. "No Ramone movie could be as cool as Johnny's story."
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