The Ramones: The Tragic Death of Dee Dee Ramone

The Ramones Dee Dee Ramone

The Tragic Death of Dee Dee Ramone

Today on Rock N’ Roll True Stories they take a look at the tragic death of The Ramones co-founder Dee Dee Ramone and his career including the time he became a rapper. Check it out below!

Tragic Story of Dee Dee Ramone


What’s going on my fellow rock n’ rollers don’t forget to hit the bell notification icon to be notified everytime i upload a new video on my channel. The Ramones bassist Dee Dee Ramone was only 50 when he died in 2002. He lived a pretty tragic life that was consumed by drugs, alcohol and rock n’ roll. This is his story.


Dee Dee ramone was a founding member, main songwriter as well as the  bassist for the hugely influential punk rock group the Ramones. Dee Dee’s struggle with substance abuse was no secret as he would publish an autobiography in the late 90’s and documented his crippling addiction. The story of the ramones is one of great tragedy as dee dee would die within almost a year of when Ramone’s frontman joey ramone passed at the age of 49 from cancer.


Originally named Douglas Glenn Coven, Dee Dee was born in 1951 in Fort Lee Virginia. His father was in the military and his mother was a  German a women. Given his Father’s  profession he moved around a lot and Dee Dee by his own admission claimed his childhood was “lonely”. When he was an infant his family relocate to West Germany where he would stay until he was the age of 15. His father would struggle with alcohol and resulted in his parents splitting up. Dee Dee, his mother and sister would move back to the States finding a new home in Forest Hills, New York. It was in Forrest Hills he met two other guys named  John Cummings and Thomas Erdelyi (erdalee)later dubbed Johnny and Tommy Ramone, who were playing in a band named Tangerine Puppets After some discussion the trio decided to start their own band. But They would add friend Jeffrey Hymann who was a drummer in another band named Sniper to cement the lineup. They would call themselves the Ramones. They would draw inspiration from the Beatles Paul McCartney who would use the alias Paul Ramon when staying at hotels. Each band member of the band would change their surname to Ramone as an act of solidarity.  Douglas Coven would become Dee Dee Ramone, John Cummings would become Johnny Ramone, Thomas Erderly would become Tommy Ramone and Jeffrey Hymen would become Joey ramone. 

It was a struggle at first as the Ramones had revolving cast of members in different positions as Dee Dee originally was the vocalist, while Joey was a drummer. After some maneuvering Joey became the vocalist while Dee Dee would focus on bass as he found singing and playing bass at the same time difficult, but he’d still add vocals on a few Ramones tracks.  A year later in 1974 the band made their live debut and soon made a name for themselves on the New York music scene. 

Mixing pop with their hard rock influences including the Who, The MC5 and the Stooges they would soon become synonymous with the New York punk rock scene using just three chords to write songs. By 1976 the band released their self titled debut album which included the punk rock anthem Blitzkrieg Pop. Dee Dee would end up being one of the band’s most prolific lyricist and songwriters penning such tracks “poison heart,” “rockaway beach” and 53rd and 3rd that documented his life as a street hustler. Something that would hamper Dee Dee for much of his life starting in his teenage years was drug addiction especially as the musician took a liking to heroin.. In the intro to Dee Dee Ramone’s book Lobotomy, Legs McNeil would write, “Dee Dee was the archetypal f–k-up whose life was a living disaster. He was a male prostitute, a would-be mugger, a heroin user and dealer, an accomplice to armed robbery — and a genius poet who was headed for an early grave, but was sidetracked by rock ‘n’ roll.”In addition to drug abuse Dee Dee would also suffer with mental illness and drug abuse put a strain on his marriage to his first wife Vera Boldis  The couple would separate in 1990 before finalizing their divorce in 1995.

In the years that followed the Ramones would undergo numerous lineup changes with Dee Dee remaining intact until 1989 after playing on 11 records. It was during his time in rehab in 1987 he soon learned about rap  music, which changed his career path following his exit from the Ramones. I always loved playing live with the ramones but I had to kind of like go my own way and stick up for myself and do what i wanted to do. There freaked you know at first they didn’t believe it. thought i was going through a midlife crisis, they thought i’d be back. He won’t be though. And the traditional artistic differences aren’t the only reason why finally clean and sober after years of drug and alcohol problems . Dee Dee felt that his hard won sobriety was in danger thanks to the ramones relentless road work. The Ramones always attracted people like who would were heavy into drugs and stuff and the people who would come around it was a nightmare. Somehow a couple of them would always get backstage and there it is. Sometimes i hung in there by the skin of my teeth and i needed a break i h ad to get off the road and they just kept on getting booked and booked and one committment after the other. Finally i had to make a decision either that or break my sobriety. You know i chose to not break my sobriety.  

Following his exit from rehab Dee Dee would record the rap influenced track “Funky Man” in 1987, but the song wouldn’t show up on his solo albums. It was Towards the end of his stint in the Ramones Dee Dee would frequently show up to gigs in full rap clothing, which frustrated his bandmates. 

After leaving the Ramones in 1989 he would embark on a career as a rapper named Dee Dee King which would put out a few solo albums and would collaborate with other artists, but it was ultimately unfruitful. In 1989 Dee Dee would release  his first rap record Standing in the Spotlight and the The album was a commercial disaster and was widely panned by critics with some considering it to be one of the worst albums in the recording industry. The album blended old school hip-hop and doo-wop with  punk rock and even featured Blondie frontwomen Debbie Harry sings backup vocals on “Mashed Potato Time” and “German Kid” with the track  “German Kid” also featuring Dee Dee rapping in both English and German. Dee Dee of course picked up German when he was living in Europe as a kid. The one track on the album named the crusher would end up being re-recorded by the Ramones on their 1995 record Adios Amigos and it would prove to be the band’s last album together. In the early 90’s Dee Dee would play guitar in punk rock legend GG Allin’s band the murder junkies, but he would only be in the group for one week and was interviewed by director Todd phillips for the GG Allin documentary.  Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies. During his interview in the film Dee Dee didn’t even know the band’s name and even though he appears on the films soundtrack he never actually played a live gig with the group only playing in rehearsals. 

By 1992 Dee Dee would move onto his next project, the short lived band Dee Dee and the Chinese Dragons, which would be followed by the more successful  Dee Dee Ramones ICLC which stood for Inter-Celestial Light Commune, which would last from 1994-1996 The group would only put out one record, 1994’s I Hate Freaks Like You, while also recording a 4 track EP titled Chinese Bitch The group would tour extensively during the mid 90’s playing 22 countries over a 10 month period and it was during this time that Dee Dee would meet Barbara Zampini while searching for his lost guitar outside his hotel in ArgentinaZampini was a fan and a bass player herself and They would later marry and she would be with dee dee until his death. 

As Dee Dee Ramones ICLC headed back into the studio to record their follow up record in 1996 they were subsequently dropped by their label. Following that career disappointment Dee Dee would team with former Ramones drummer Marky Ramone and tour as a Ramones tribute act. 

Dee Dee would be invited to the final Ramones show at the Palace in Los Angeles on August 6, 1996 and would perform the lead vocals on “Love Kills“.

By the late 90’s Dee Dee would move to LA to pursue a career in acting while still working on his music, but his hollywood career would stall. He would however land a central role in the 2002 low budget release bikini bandits in addition to recording the song for the  movie to the films soundtrack featuring his wife on lead vocals. 

In 2002 Dee Dee would make one of his final public appearances when the Ramones were inducted into the RRHOF. But sadly Several months after the appearance Dee Dee was found dead on the evening of June 5, 2002, by his wife Barbara in their hollywood apartment. The cause of death was officially ruled to be a heroin overdose. Dee Dee was scheduled to perform at the Majestic Ventura Theatre around this time, but that show would end up being a memorial show for him. 

Dee Dee would end up being laid to rest at the hollywood forever cemetery close to his former Ramones Bandmate Johnny Ramone. His headstone reads “O.K…I gotta go now.”


Without him the Ramones likely would never have even existed and the history of punk rock may never have been the same. Let me know your thoughts on dee dee ramone down in the comments section below and as always if you have suggestions for future topics let me know down below as well. Take care.