Dee Dee Ramone, a founding member of the seminal punk rock band the Ramones, was found dead at his Hollywood home late Wednesday. He was 49.
Ramone was found on a couch by his wife when she returned home at 8:25 p.m., a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner told Associated Press. Paramedics were called and he was declared dead at 8:40 p.m. Investigators found drug paraphernalia at the scene.
The coroner's spokesman told The Times that the preliminary listing for the case was "apparent accidental overdose" of drugs, but that an official determination of the cause of death would not be made until toxicology tests were completed, which can take four to six weeks.
His death comes 14 months after the Ramones' most famous member, singer Joey Ramone, died of cancer.
Dee Dee Ramone was a key contributor to the band that is generally acknowledged as the originator of punk rock. The fast-paced sound brought energy and rawness to a mid-'70s pop music world dominated by slick disco and faceless "corporate rock."
Although punk began as an underground movement, it soon became a staple of rock, spawning such bands as the Sex Pistols and the Clash.
It remains a vital--and much more commercial--force today, with such best-selling acts as Green Day, the Offspring and Blink-182 representing succeeding generations.
The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March, and a tribute album of the group's songs recorded by such artists as Eddie Vedder, Marilyn Manson and the Red Hot Chili Peppers will be released by Columbia Records later this year.
"Dee Dee was the epitome of what punk rock was all about," the Ramones' longtime manager Gary Kurfirst said. "He lived it; he lived dangerously."
Born Douglas Colvin in Virginia, Dee Dee Ramone spent much of his youth in West Germany, where his father was stationed in the Army.
He was living in Queens, N.Y., when he formed a band with friends Jeff Hyman, John Cummings and Tom Erdelyi. After some instrument-switching and the adoption of a common surname, bassist Dee Dee, singer Joey, guitarist Johnny and drummer Tommy Ramone became a sensation on a burgeoning New York scene that also fostered the Talking Heads, Patti Smith and Blondie.
Dee Dee was a key contributor to the Ramones, co-writing the satirical anthem "Teenage Lobotomy," the rousing "Rockaway Beach" and the movie theme song "Pet Sematary," among his many credits. Every number in the group's show began with his shout of 1-2-3-4.
Dee Dee left the band, which continued until 1996, in 1989. He recorded a rap album under the name Dee Dee King, then returned to rock for three records. He toured with his wife, Barbara Zampini, and two later Ramones members under the name the Remainz, mainly playing the old band's songs.
Dee Dee also turned to painting and writing, publishing an autobiography, "Poison Heart: Surviving the Ramones," and a novel, "Chelsea Horror Hotel." Another novel, "Legend of a Rock Star," is scheduled to be published this month.
"He was an amazing person," his book publisher Neil Ortenberg said Thursday. "He could be so otherworldly that people would disregard him, then he'd suddenly say something that would make you realize what kind of genius he was."
Ramone was a participant in The Times Book Festival in April, and performed the following week at the Knitting Factory, a Hollywood nightclub.
In his first book and in interviews, the musician frequently spoke about his struggles with drugs and other problems. He said that he went broke, was jailed on assault charges and arrested for drugs. But he professed to have kicked his habit in the early '90s.
"I'm really lucky I'm still around," he said in an interview in late 2000. "Everybody expected me to die next.... It was sad when Sid Vicious died.... I was freaked out when Phil Lynott died from Thin Lizzy. I cried. It was too crazy. But it was always someone else instead of me."
Ramone is survived by his wife, his mother and a sister.
Times staff writer Geoff Boucher contributed to this report.