Born Erdélyi Tamás in Budapest, Tommy was raised in Forest Hills, NY. Growing up in Queens, he met the future members of The Ramones — including Johnny Ramone, with whom he played in a band called The Tangerine Puppets — and eventually became the manager for Johnny, Dee Dee, and Joey. When The Ramones realized that Joey couldn't hack it on the drums and switched to guitar, Tommy ended up taking his place as a member of the band himself.
The Ramones quickly became one of the most visible underground acts in New York, bringing the burgeoning punk scene to the mainstream. And, although their first record sold poorly, it's now considered one of the greatest debut albums of all time. Despite a tight running time of under 30 minutes, Ramones influenced countless bands, including The Clash, Nirvana, and Green Day.
Tommy played on the first three Ramones albums and produced the first four. After he left the band in 1978, two other freshly minted Ramones — first Marky, then Richie — took his place on the drums.
Over the last decade and a half, the band has lost its original members one by one. Joey Ramone died of lymphoma in 2001; Dee Dee fatally overdosed on heroin the following year; and prostate cancer took Johnny in 2004. Tommy passed away Friday at his home in Queens, following a bout with bile duct cancer.
In honor of Tommy and the rest, we present 10 of the band's best songs. Long live The Ramones.
Though this was produced by Phil Spector(!) in the post-Tommy era, it's perhaps one of the most fitting on the occasion of his passing. "Radio playin' so no one can see / We need change, we need it fast / Before rock's just part of the past / 'Cause lately it all sounds the same to me."
Produced by Tommy in 1977, "Sheena" is one of the band's most iconic songs, showcasing The Ramones' experiments with the surf rock style.
As the song that gave birth to the chant "Hey, ho, let's go!" this one is pure, classic Ramones.
Immortalized for a younger generation in Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, "Judy" also has the distinction of being The Ramones' shortest song.
Even people who don't even know the name of the band know how this one goes: "Twenty twenty twenty four hours to go..."
Long before NYC hipsters reclaimed Rockaway Beach as their go-to summer destination, The Ramones were there rocking out in black sunglasses and ripped jeans.
This song shares its name with the title of the 1979 Roger Corman comedy featuring The Ramones and a cast of young miscreants.
Got youthful angst? This is the song for you. Just beware of the DDT.
This is perhaps The Ramones' best-titled song — outside of "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" — supposedly written about Joey's relationship with a black woman.
This is old-school Ramones, with Tommy on drums. (Originally, but not in this video.) It's allegedly based on a true story, when Joey saw a mother chasing her child with a baseball bat.