On Sunday, nearly 400 fans of The Ramones attended a ceremony in front of the band’s alma mater, Forest Hills High School, co-naming the intersection at 67th Avenue and 110th Street “The Ramones Way.”
Formed in 1974, the Ramones consisted of drummer Tommy, guitarist Johnny, singer Joey, and bassist Dee Dee, who all took the surname “Ramone” as a stage name.
In 2002, SPIN magazine ranked the Ramones the second greatest band of all time, trailing only The Beatles. In 2011, the group was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award.
“The Ramones performed over 2,200 concerts from 1974 to 1996,” said Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz. “Their greatness is not in their durability, but in their pioneering of what has become known as punk rock.”
The members of the Ramones may have passed away at a young age, but they are alive more than ever after their death.
“Johnny told me many times that when you play a new sound and make great music, you will live forever,” said Rosana Cummings, Johnny's first wife. “Looking around at the diverse crowd, he was right.”
Mickey Leigh, Joey's brother, began advocating for the honor after attending the “Joey Ramone Place” co-naming in the East Village in 2003.
“I was overcome with feelings of joy and triumph,” he said of learning of the Forest Hills renaming, “not only for my brother and childhood friends, but for all the fans.”
Each year, Leigh organizes the “Joey Ramone Birthday Bash” to celebrate his brother's life and career, as well as raise funds for lymphoma cancer research, which is what killed Joey.
Leigh also referenced two other talented musicians who also hail from Forest Hills, noting the neighborhood's strong musical legacy.
“Two guys I can think of will say to each other, ‘Hey, if we work really hard like those guys did, maybe one day there will be a Simon & Garfunkel sign,’” he joked.
Earlier this year, a Ramones mural by artist Ori Carino was unveiled at Thorneycroft Ramp, and another mural celebrating the legendary band by street artists Crisp and Praxis appeared at the Continental Avenue underpass.
The Queens Museum ushered in Ramones fever with the exhibition “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk” by co-curator Marc Miller, who also spoke at Sunday's ceremony.
“Right from the start, they had a mystic,” he said. “Everyone at CBGB expected them to make it big.”
“Some of my favorite memories of Tommy were when we performed at CBGB and other venues in 1990,” said nephew David Erdelyi. “I was a 23-year-old drummer, and it was a thrill to be on stage with such talent. He was a true professional in every respect.
“The Ramones are finally getting the local recognition they deserve, and it's long overdue,” he added.
“With graduates such as Burt Bacharach, Leslie West, and Gary Kurfirst, there are few schools that can legitimize the claim of being a true ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,’” said assistant principal Neil Rosenblatt, who referenced the Ramones’ song “Pinhead,” which opens with the lyrics, “Gabba, gabba, we accept you, we accept you, one of us.”
“To me, these lyrics are about acceptance, a message we impress upon our students every day,” Rosenblatt said. “Queens is celebrated as the most diverse geographical location in the world, and as different as all of us are, we still yearn to be accepted.”
FHHS graduate Ira Nagel can occasionally be spotted wearing his “I am the last Ramone” t-shirt.
“I was an original Ramone,” he said on Sunday. “Joey and I were the best of friends and we grew up together. He came to me in the beginning and said I want you to play bass for us.”
FHHS seniors John Knitter and Sandra Alves filmed the ceremony to air on the school’s monthly series “Good Day Forest Hills.”
“I interviewed one family where all three of their kids were Ramones fans, and it was very nice to see how much they impacted all these people,” said Alves.