Johnny Thunders

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About Johnny Thunders

Johnny Thunders’ raunchy licks and fast-living bravado helped define New York punk. The guitarist was born John Genzale, an Italian kid from Queens who worshipped The Rolling Stones and The Kinks. Renaming himself after the latter’s 1968 tune “Johnny Thunder,” he teamed up with the New York Dolls in 1971. Their first two brilliantly sloppy albums, 1973’s New York Dolls and 1974’s In Too Much Too Soon, established punk. After their implosion, Thunders formed the equally self-destructive Heartbreakers (not to be confused with Tom Petty’s backing band), whose live prowess landed them a slot on the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy tour. A single studio album, 1977’s L.A.M.F., arrived before Thunders went solo. Beginning with his 1978 debut, So Alone, he continued to crank out disheveled rock ’n’ roll nuggets like “You Can't Put Your Arms Round a Memory” while also expanding his style on releases like 1984’s acoustic-based Hurt Me and 1988’s Copy Cats, a vintage-R&B set recorded with Patti Palladin. Thunders eventually moved to New Orleans, where his struggles with hard drugs caught up to him, resulting in the 38-year-old’s death in 1991.

Queens, NY, United States
July 15, 1952
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