04/09/1998 AT 12:00 AM EDT
Influential punk icon Joey Ramone, 49, of the legendary band the Ramones, died of lymphatic cancer in a New York hospital on Sunday, said Arturo Vega, the group's longtime artistic director. Born Jeffrey Hyman in Queens, N.Y., Ramone grew up in a bohemian family and explored painting before he delved into music. In 1974 he formed the Ramones with three fellow outcasts, and was originally the group's drummer -- until he grabbed the microphone once the band's songs moved at such a pace that he could not keep up. The New York Times said that with his 6'3" frame, Ramone liked to lean forward and look like as though he was strangling the microphone while delivering songs such as "Blitzkreig Bop" and "Teenage Lobotomy" in a perfectly modulated yell. As evidence of Ramone's influence and staying power, he happens to grace this month's cover of Spin magazine.