Joey Ramone died yesterday. I think a little part of me did, too.

Didn't notice it right away. First it was just weird. From the announcement in the chatterbox "HOLY SHIT! JOEY RAMONE IS DEAD!" to the frantic checking of every news site I could think of for confirmation, I didn't know how I felt or how I was supposed to. This morning on the way to work in my black "presidential seal" Ramones shirt, playing the We're Outta Here album, it sunk in. He's gone, Joey's dead. Johnny's guitar may have made the band's sound but it's Joey that you think of when you think "Ramones," bad haircut, bad teeth, accent and all. He was the voice, he was the personality.

But should I get emotional about it? The Ramones were a cartoon punk band (reality and art meeting in their appearence on the Simpsons— Marky: "Hey, I think they liked us." Mr. Burns: "Have the Rolling Stones killed."), but they knew that and so did we. That was (is) part of the fun, what makes them great. Whether making mice explode in a movie or appearing on an episode of Sha Na Na (!), they were as in on the joke as we were.

Not only did we learn not to take ourselves too seriously, they made rock fun again and showed us that we could make music, too. Those simple chords you learn when you first start attempting to play guitar? You can write and play your own songs.

And there are few punk bands who weren't somehow influenced by them or by other bands that were. When Joe Queer lyrically brags about playing faster than Johnny Ramone, it's just as much a compliment as when he sings "I think I'd rather be at home, listening to the Ramones" or "I wish Joey was president." And when the Queers, Screeching Weasel, the Vindictives, Boris the Sprinkler, the Mr. T Experience, and Jon Cougar Concentration Camp each cover a different Ramones album, you know it's not for money or a mere nod to an influence, it's because they love the band. Heck, Lemmy from Motörhead wrote a song about them.

But how can Joey be gone? The Ramones were just always there, even after they broke up. Reliable as a three chord change. A D E "Hey Ho, Let's Go!" Or the bass player shouting "1-2-3-4!" And 49? Can a Ramone be that old? Wasn't he the same young guy geting forcefed wheat germ and riboflavin while the others got pizza in Rock 'n' Roll High School? Singing about slugs and snails being after me, meeting girls at the Burger King, and wanting to be sedated (made NPR's Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century)?

To some, rock is summed up by John, Paul, George, and Ringo or Mick and Keith. To me, it'll always be Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy (and Marky and Ritchie and CJ).

The movie's still there, all the albums and memories. I can still drive around on that first warm weekend day of spring listening to "Rockaway Beach" cranked on the stereo.

But it won't be the same anymore. Joey's gone.

And a little part of me, as well.