Today, thanks to Facebook, I discovered that two of the most influential men in my life share the same birthday. Both Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little) and Joey Ramone (born Jeffrey Ross Hyman) started their journeys on May 19, and, in their honor, not only am I drinking a beer right now to their memories, but I’ve marked my calendar to do so every year on this date for the rest of my life. [I suspect we can come up with a better name for the holiday than Joey-X Day, but I figure that it’s good enough to serve as a placeholder for the time being.]
Maybe it’s because I discovered the first Ramones album and The Autobiography of Malcolm X at roughly the same time, when I was about 16, and just beginning to think critically about the world around me, but the two men will always be linked together in my mind… which is kind of weird, but also kind of beautiful in a way.
So, on Facebook this evening, I noticed that some of my friends posted about Malcolm’s birthday, while other posted about Joey’s birthday, but no one, at least as far as I could tell, mentioned the two of them together… which got me wondering whether or not I could start a little campaign to celebrate their birthdays together, and perhaps, in the process, bring a few new people to the each of their work.
I’m not sure how this will manifest itself going forward… Maybe, next year, I’ll just sit in an empty storefront on Michigan Avenue, alternating tracks by both men, and welcoming in people from the street to join me. Or maybe we could play their work concurrently, on two opposite sides of a room, and encourage people to drift back and forth, or just plant themselves right in the middle. I know it’s a lot to ask, but it would be great if other communities picked it up and celebrated the holiday in their own way, putting their own unique spin on it. One community could encourage artists to paint portraits of the two men together. Another could encourage bands to cover Ramones songs with lyrics taken from Malcolm’s speeches.
Anyway, I could go on and on about what the two men meant to me as a kid growing up in New Jersey farm country, just beginning to get a sense of the world outside, but it’s probably best to just let them speak for themselves. Here are a few of my favorite recordings of both men. Enjoy… And be sure to join me for the festivities next year.
[Malcolm would have been 90 today, and Joey would have been 64, had they not been brought down by bullets and cancer respectively.]