Monday, February 25, 2002
It isn't just his death last Easter at age 49 that engenders so much instant affection for the first solo album from Joey Ramone, issued posthumously this week.
The songs on "Don't Worry About Me" don't necessarily take on a new meaning after his death; the gangly lead singer of the Ramones likely knew cancer was gaining on him as he recorded the tracks, lovingly finished by a series of ace New York musicians including Daniel Rey, Andy Shernoff and, yes, Marky Ramone.
Why else make a point of saying in the title song "Don't worry about me" to his concerned fans. Why else create an anthem like the "I Got Knocked Down (But I'll Get Up)" which begins with honest declarations of his condition: "Sitting in a hospital bed, frustration going through my head .. I want my life. It really sucks."
All through his career with the Ramones, you got the feeling Joey was the biggest fan of the widest range of rock music and great pop in the band. It's proved again here as he covers Louis Armstrong's hit "What a Wonderful World," retooled with a Sex Pistols bite, and the Stooges' classic "1969."
But it's obvious that Ramone didn't stay still. Indeed, the crunching, melodic riffs here accompany lyrics with a decidedly grown-up bent, about how things aren't what they used to be, "Venting (It's a Different World Today)", embarking on a modern spiritual search ("Searching for Something"). At the same time, his ringing valentine for a CNBC newswoman, "Maria Bartiromo," shows him adapting his classic punk style for modern middle-age concerns (how are the stocks are doing?).
It's sad that Joey's gone, but "Don't Worry About Me" is a great legacy to leave behind, about a punk's graceful aging.
To hear excerpts from 'Don't Worry About Me' by Joey Ramone, go to ctnow.com/ entertainment/ music.