Queens, New York, USA
Place of Death
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Cause of Death
Claim to Fame
Lead guitarist for glam band New York Dolls
Punk/New Wave, New York Punk, American Punk, Hard Rock, Rock & Roll, Proto-Punk
Reckless, Irreverent, Trashy, Druggy, Malevolent, Snide
Profile Bio Text
Johnny Thunders, born John Anthony Genzale, Jr. (July 15, 1952 - April 23, 1991), was an Italian American rock and roll/punk rock guitarist, singer and songwriter.
Though he disapproved of the term "punk rock", Thunders is widely recognized as a seminal influence on the genre, particularly for his penetrating guitar sound. IGN.com listed him as one of "Punk Rock`s 10 Mightiest Guitar Gods". He came to prominence in the early `70s as a member of the New York Dolls, and afterwards became a familiar figure in the New York punk scene, both with The Heartbreakers and as a solo artist. Thunders struggled with drug and alcohol addiction and died under mysterious circumstances.
Many rumors surround Thunders` death at the St. Peter House in New Orleans, Louisiana in April 1991. He apparently died of drug-related causes, but it has been speculated that it was the result of foul play. According to the autobiography Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones, Dee Dee Ramone took a call in New York the next day from Stevie Klasson, Johnny`s rhythm guitar player. "They told me that Johnny had gotten mixed up with some bastards... who ripped him off for his methadone supply. They had given him LSD and then murdered him. He had gotten a pretty large supply of methadone in England, so he could travel and stay away from those creeps - the drug dealers, Thunders imitators, and losers like that."
What is known for certain is that Johnny`s room (no. 37) was ransacked and most of his possessions were missing (passport, makeup, clothes). Rigor mortis had set in with his body positioned in an unnatural state, described by eyewitnesses as "like a pretzel", underneath a coffee table. Friends and acquaintances acknowledge he had not been using heroin for some time, relying on his methadone prescriptions. The police did not open a criminal investigation.
An autopsy was conducted by the New Orleans coroner, but served only to compound the mysteries. According to Thunders` biographer Nina Antonia as posted on the Jungle Records web site, the level of drugs found in his system was not fatal. And according to the book "Rock Bottom: Dark Moments in Music Babylon" by Pamela Des Barres who interviewed Thunders` sister Marion, the autopsy confirmed evidence of advanced leukemia, which would explain the decline in Thunders` appearance in the final year of his life. This also sheds light on the interview in Lech Kowalski`s documentary "Born To Lose: The Last Rock and Roll Movie", where Thunders` sister Mary-Ann`s husband says, "Only Johnny knew how sick he really was."
In a 1994 Melody Maker interview Thunders` manager Mick Webster described the efforts of his family, "We keep asking the New Orleans police to re-investigate, but they haven’t been particularly friendly. They seemed to think that this was just another junkie who had wandered into town and died. They simply weren’t interested." Marion claims that the original police report is largely missing and Webster further explains that the Coroner who conducted the autopsy was fired for falsifying a report in another case.
Thunders was survived by his ex-wife Julie and four children, sons John Genzale, Vito Genzale, Dino Genzale, and daughter Jamie Genzale. His oldest son Vito is serving a prison sentence in the Southport Correctional Facility in New York for drug dealing, having completed a previous sentence in Attica.
Couple Profile Source
Full Name at Birth
John Anthony Genzale, Jr.
Dee Dee Ramone, Stiv Bators, Jerry Nolan, Richard Hell, Wayne Kramer
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Music Profile Complete
Johnny Thunders (July 15, 1952 – April 23, 1991), born John Anthony Genzale, Jr., was an American rock and roll/punk rock guitarist, singer and songwriter. He came to prominence in the early 1970s as a member of the New York Dolls. He later played with The Heartbreakers and as a solo artist.
Musician, Singer, Songwriter
Music Genre (Text)
Rock and roll, Punk Rock, Glam Rock, Glam Punk, Rhythm And Blues, Protopunk
Guitar, Bass Guitar
New York Dolls, The Heartbreakers
John Genzale (son), Jamie Genzale (daughter), Vito Genzale (son), Dino Genzale (son)
Sid Vicious (musician)
Vocals, Backing Vocals
The Living Dead
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