Douglas Glenn Colvin, known professionally as Dee Dee Ramone, was a German-American musician, singer and songwriter best known as founding member, songwriter, bassist and occasional lead vocalist for the punk rock band the Ramones.
Though nearly all of the Ramones’ songs were credited equally to all the band members, Dee Dee was the band’s most prolific lyricist and composer, writing many of their best-known songs, such as “53rd & 3rd”, “Commando”, “Wart Hog”, “Rockaway Beach”, and “Poison Heart”. He was initially the band’s lead vocalist, though his (then) inability to sing and play bass at the same time resulted in original drummer Joey Ramone taking over the lead vocalist duties (however, he still sang lead vocals in the band on occasion). Dee Dee was the band’s bassist and songwriter from 1974 until 1989, when he left to pursue a short-lived career in hip hop music under the name Dee Dee King. He soon returned to his punk roots and released three solo albums featuring brand-new songs, many of which were later recorded by the Ramones. He toured the world playing his new songs, Ramones songs and some old favorites in small clubs, and continued to write songs for the Ramones until 1996, when the band officially retired.
Dee Dee struggled with drug addiction for much of his life, particularly heroin. He began using drugs as a teenager and continued to use for the majority of his adult life. He appeared clean in the early 1990s but began using heroin again sometime later. He died from a heroin overdose on June 5, 2002.
Douglas Glenn Colvin was born on September 18, 1951, in Fort Lee, Virginia, USA, he was the son of an American soldier and a German woman. As an infant, his family relocated to Berlin, Germany, due to his father’s military service. His father’s military career also required the family to relocate frequently. These frequent moves caused Douglas to have a lonely childhood with few real friends. His parents separated during his early teens, and he remained in Berlin until the age of 15, when he, along with his mother and sister Beverley, moved to Forest Hills, New York, in order to escape Dee Dee’s alcoholic father. There he met John Cummings and Thomas Erdelyi (later dubbed Johnny and Tommy Ramone), then playing in a band called the Tangerine Puppets, named after a Donovan song.
Bassist Monty Colvin from the progressive metal band Galactic Cowboys is one of Dee Dee’s cousins.
In 1978, he married Vera Boldis. According to Vera, Dee Dee’s struggles with mental illness and drug abuse put a strain on the couple’s relationship. They separated in 1990 before finalizing their divorce in 1995. By then, Dee Dee was making music as the Ramainz with his second wife, Barbara Zampini (also known as Barbara Ramone). Since his death, she continues to manage his estate, calling herself Barbara Ramone Zampini.
Colvin, later Dee Dee, and Cummings, later Johnny, quickly became friends, as they were both social outcasts in their heavily middle-class neighborhood. After an unsuccessful guitar audition for Television, Johnny convinced Dee Dee to form their own band with then-drummer Jeffrey Hyman, later Joey Ramone, in 1974. Joey took over vocal duties after Dee Dee decided that he could not sing lead vocals for longer than a few songs as his voice shredded. Dee Dee would continue, however, to count off each song’s tempo with his signature rapid-fire shout of “1-2-3-4!”
It was Dee Dee who first suggested naming the band the Ramones, after reading that Paul McCartney often signed into hotels under the alias “Paul Ramon”. He added an ‘e’ to the end of that surname and the band members all agreed to adopt the surname “Ramone” as a means of conveying their unity.
Dee Dee wrote or co-wrote much of the Ramones’ repertoire, such as “53rd and 3rd” (a song about male prostitution at 53rd Street and 3rd Avenue in Manhattan, allegedly based on personal experience), “Glad to See You Go” (written about his then-girlfriend, a stripper and fellow drug user with a volatile personality), “It’s a Long Way Back”, “Chinese Rocks” (originally recorded by Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, as guitarist Johnny Ramone was not enthusiastic about the Ramones doing songs about drugs) and “Wart Hog” (a song Dee Dee wrote in rehab). After he quit the Ramones, Dee Dee continued to write songs for them, contributing at least three songs to each of their albums.
According to Mondo Bizarro’s liner notes, for example, the Ramones once bailed Dee Dee out of jail in exchange for the rights to his songs “Main Man”, “Strength to Endure” and “Poison Heart”, which would become a minor hit for the band. The band’s final studio album, 1995’s ¡Adios Amigos!, features several of Dee Dee’s solo songs, such as “I’m Makin’ Monsters for My Friends” and “It’s Not for Me to Know” from his album I Hate Freaks Like You.
Dee Dee was present when the Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, the first year they were eligible, and not long after lead singer, Joey had died. Dee Dee humorously congratulated himself at the induction. He died later that year.
In 1987, before leaving the Ramones, Dee Dee embarked on a brief hip hop career as rapper “Dee Dee King” with the album Standing in the Spotlight. Dee Dee had recorded “Funky Man” as Dee Dee King in 1987. Music critic Matt Carlson wrote that the album “will go down in the annals of pop culture as one of the worst recordings of all time”. After the album failed, he returned to punk rock with various short-lived projects such as Sprokkett (which also featured Richard ‘The Atomic Elf’ Bacchus of D Generation and the Spikey Tops). In 1987 Dee Dee wrote and produced a song called “Baby Doll” for the Chesterfield Kings (“Baby Doll”/”I Cannot Find Her”, acoustic version 1987, Mirror Records, later recorded by American rock and roll band the Connection, on their album New England’s Newest Hit Makers). Months after he left the Ramones, in the fall of 1989, Dee Dee already performed songs such as “Poison Heart” and “Main Man” (later to be recorded by the Ramones) with his band the Spikey Tops.
In 1991, Dee Dee was briefly involved with transgressive punk rock singer-songwriter GG Allin, playing the guitar with Allin’s backup band the Murder Junkies. His involvement lasted approximately one week, enough for him to be briefly interviewed during the filming of Todd Phillips’ Allin documentary Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies. In the film, Dee Dee reveals that he was unaware of the band’s name, even after joining. Rehearsal recordings of him with Allin and the Murder Junkies appears on the Hated soundtrack, as well as on the posthumous live Allin compilation Res-Erected. Video footage of the rehearsals is available on DVD through Allin’s estate’s website. Dee Dee never actually played a live gig with the band.
In 1992, Dee Dee formed another short-lived project named Dee Dee Ramone and the Chinese Dragons, which was followed by the most successful of his post-Ramones projects, a group named Dee Dee Ramone I.C.L.C. (Inter-Celestial Light Commune), which lasted from 1994 to 1996. The group featured New York City bassist John Carco (formerly of Queens hardcore group Misguided) who befriended Dee Dee when the two attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings together during the summer of 1992. After writing more than a dozen songs and recording several demos for an upcoming Ramones album with producer Daniel Rey, Dee Dee decided to keep the material for his new band. After working with several drummers and playing several live shows in the New York City area, Dee Dee and Carco moved to Amsterdam to record a four-song EP and fourteen-track album for Rough Trade Records. I Hate Freaks Like You was released on April 17, 1994, featuring Nina Hagen on two of the album’s fourteen tracks. The three-piece line up now consisted of Dee Dee (vocals, guitar), Carco (bass, vocals), and Dutch drummer Danny Arnold Lommen.
I.C.L.C. would go on to promote the I Hate Freaks Like You album by touring 22 countries over a 10-month period. During this tour, in November 1994, Dee Dee met 16-year-old Barbara Zampini while searching for his lost guitar outside his hotel in Argentina. Zampini was a big fan of the Ramones and had been playing bass for two years, heavily influenced by Dee Dee’s early work. They later married and remained together until his death. Barbara had some tours with Dee Dee Ramone.
In January 1995, the group had completed their 10-month tour and returned to their headquarters in Amsterdam to begin recording a second album. The group was soon dropped, however, by their record label, Rough Trade World Service. With this development, bassist John Carco left the group and moved to Los Angeles where he formed and played with Frankie O. and Pete Stahl (singer of D.C.H.C. group Scream) in the group Metro. Carco would later pursue an acting career. Songs written by Dee Dee and Carco for the never released second I.C.L.C. album would eventually be recorded by the Ramones on their final album ¡Adios Amigos!. One of these songs, “Born to Die in Berlin”, would ultimately be the final song on the final Ramones’ album, and featured Dee Dee singing in German on the bridge of the song. Also the song Fix Yourself Up eventually recorded by Dee Dee on the album Zonked.
Dee Dee was also a special guest at the final Ramones show at the Palace in Los Angeles on August 6, 1996, performing the lead vocals on the song “Love Kills”.
Dee Dee formed a Ramones’ tribute band called the Ramainz with his wife Barbara (“Barbara Ramone”, bass) and former Ramones’ member Marky (drums). They recorded an album, Live in NYC, released in Argentina and many other countries, and played a couple of times with C.J. Ramone.
Dee Dee also recorded several solo albums. Zonked!, the first album release under the Dee Dee Ramone moniker, was re-titled Ain’t It Fun? for the European release, but other than the addition of the bonus track “Please Kill Me”, the music is identical. The line-up for this album was Dee Dee Ramone on guitars and lead vocals, Marky Ramone on drums, longtime partner Daniel Ray producing and on guitars, and Barbara “Ramone”/Zampini on bass and lead vocals. Guests included Joey Ramone singing lead on “I am seeing UFOs”, and the Cramps’ vocalist Lux Interior doing the same on “Bad Horoscope”.
The second solo album was called Hop Around; the line-up consisted of Dee Dee Ramone, Barbara Ramone/Zampini, Chris Spedding on guitars and Billy Rogers on drums. Dee Dee also released Greatest and Latest, with Barbara, Spedding and Chase Manhattan on drums. This album consisted of re-recording of Ramones songs, a re-recorded solo song (“Fix Yourself Up”, originally from Zonked!/Ain’t It Fun?), cover-songs and an unreleased new solo-song (“Sidewalk Surfin’”).
In the 21st century, Dee Dee teamed up with Paul Kostabi, leader of the hardcore punk band Youth Gone Mad and former guitarist for White Zombie. An established artist, Kostabi was instrumental in getting Dee Dee’s new career as a painter off the ground. Together with Barbara, the trio collaborated on several hundred works that sold quickly for a few hundred dollars each. In 2012, the tenth anniversary of Dee Dee’s death was observed by a show at a prominent art gallery in California.
On Halloween, 1998, while staying at the Hotel Chelsea, Dee Dee and Zampini met the Hollywood band SEXYCHRIST, which featured adult film star Kurt Lockwood. Lockwood encouraged them to move to Hollywood, and together the two bands shared a successful tour of the U.S. in early 1999. Afterwards, Dee Dee formed the Dee Dee Ramone Band, with members including Christian Martucci (vocals and guitar), Anthony Smedile (drums), Chase Manhattan (drums), and Stefan Adika (bass). With the exception of one show at the Spa Club in NYC and a Club Makeup performance, this would be his last touring band. Dee Dee would release a book, entitled Legend of a Rock Star, A Memoir: The Last Testament of Dee Dee Ramone, written while on tour in Europe in 2001.
Dee Dee later moved to California where he continued to make music and pursued an acting career. Though largely unsuccessful as an actor, he landed a major role in the 2002 low-budget film Bikini Bandits. He also contributed the song “In a Movie” to the film’s soundtrack, which features his wife Barbara on lead vocals.
His next album—a live album produced by Gilby Clarke (ex-Guns N’ Roses), to have been recorded on June 12, 2002, at Hollywood’s Key Club—never materialized. Several bootlegs of the Dee Dee Ramone Band exist, including, Live in Milan, Italy. Dee Dee’s final studio recordings were released by tREND iS dEAD! records as the 2002 album Youth Gone Mad featuring Dee Dee Ramone. He also worked with the band Terrorgruppe.
Dee Dee Ramone was found dead on the evening of June 5, 2002, by his wife Barbara at his apartment in Hollywood. An autopsy established heroin overdose as the official cause of death. He had been booked to perform at the Majestic Ventura Theater, which ended up being a memorial show in his honor.
Dee Dee Ramone is buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, not far from the bronze memorial to his former Ramones bandmate, Johnny Ramone. His headstone features the Ramones seal with the line “I feel so safe flying on a ray on the highest trails above” taken from his song “Highest Trails Above”, from the Ramones’ Subterranean Junglealbum. At the stone’s base is the line “O.K…I gotta go now.” A picture of the headstone can be seen in the music video for the Dropkick Murphys song “Rose Tattoo” from their 2013 album, Signed and Sealed in Blood.
In the 2013 film CBGB Dee Dee Ramone is played by actor Steven Schub (lead singer of ska bands the Fenwicks and HaSkaLA).
Dee Dee Ramone used Ampeg amplification during his entire career with the Ramones. His preferred bass guitars included:
- Danelectro Bass: Natural, White pickguard, Rosewood fretboard (1974–1975)
- Fender Musicmaster Bass: red, white pickguard, rosewood fretboard ( 1974–1975 )
- Fender ’62 Precision Bass: White, Tortoise pickguard, Rosewood fretboard (1975–1977)
- Fender ’75 Precision Bass: Black, Black pickguard, Maple neck (1975–1977)
- Fender ’76 Precision Bass: White, Black pickguard (changed to Red), Maple neck (1977–1983) (He used at least 3 such basses).
- Fender ’78 Precision Bass: Sunburst, Black pickguard, Maple neck (1982–1983) (He used at least 2 such basses).
- Fender ’79 Precision Bass: Black, White pickguard, Maple neck (1983–1988)
- Fender ’83 Precision Bass: White, White pickguard, Maple neck (1983–1988)
- ESP Custom Precision Bass: Cream, White pickguard, Rosewood fretboard (1986–1988)
- ESP Custom P-style Bass: Orange w. Spider Graphic, Rosewood fretboard (1986–1989)
- ESP Custom Thunderbird Bass: Yellow w. Chinese Dragon Graphic and “Ramones” lettering, Rosewood fretboard (1988–1989)
Dee Dee Ramone wrote one book related to his music career, Legend of a Rock Star, a daily journal of commentary on his last, hectic European tour in the spring of 2001.
He also penned a novel, Chelsea Horror Hotel, in which he and his wife move into New York City’s famous Hotel Chelsea and believe they are staying in the same room where Sid Vicious allegedly killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. In the book, Ramone is visited by Vicious himself, as well as other dead punk rock friends such as Johnny Thunders, Stiv Bators, and Jerry Nolan.
- Ramones (1976)
- Leave Home (1977)
- Rocket to Russia (1977)
- Road to Ruin (1978)
- It’s Alive (1979)
- End of the Century (1980)
- Pleasant Dreams (1981)
- Subterranean Jungle (1983)
- Too Tough to Die (1984)
- Animal Boy (1986)
- Halfway to Sanity (1987)
- Brain Drain (1989)
- You Don’t Come Close (2001)
- NYC 1978 (2003)
|“Funky Man” single||Dee Dee King||1987|
|Standing in the Spotlight||1989|
|“What About Me” single||Dee Dee Ramone and the Chinese Dragons||1993|
|“Chinese Bitch” EP||Dee Dee Ramone I.C.L.C.||1994|
|I Hate Freaks Like You||1994|
|Zonked! (aka Ain’t it Fun)||Dee Dee Ramone||1997|
|Greatest & Latest||2000|
|Youth Gone Mad featuring Dee Dee Ramone||Youth Gone Mad||2002|
|Split EP||Dee Dee Ramone & Terrorgrupe||2002|