Arturo Vega, the man who designed the Ramones’ indelible logo, and was the band’s artistic director for 22 years, died Saturday (June 8), announced friend and Please Kill Me author Legs McNeil on his Facebook page. First reported by Slicing Up Eyeballs, McNeil wrote: “Sleep gently my dear friend, you were the must optimistic, jubilant and fun pal anyone could wish for. I don’t know what the world will be like without, nor do I want to even imagine it… But I know you will find eternal happiness wherever you end up….I love you Arturo.”
Vega, an actor/painter from Chihuahua, Mexico, who lived in a Bowery loft near CBGB, befriended the group and even let Joey and Dee Dee live with him before the release of the Ramones’ first album. It was during this time that Vega developed the band’s classic American-bald-eagle logo. As he explained in Ramones: An American Band, the Jim Bessman biography: “I saw them as the ultimate American band. To me, they reflected the American character, in general — an almost childish, innocent aggression. Then the first time I went to Washington, D.C., I was impressed by the official atmosphere…I thought, ‘The Great Seal of the President of the United States would be perfect for the Ramones, with the eagle holding arrows — to symbolize strength and the aggression that would be used against whomever dares to attack us — and an olive branch, offered to those who want to be friendly. But…instead of the olive branch, we had an apple tree branch, since the Ramones were American as apple pie. And since Johnny was such a baseball fanatic, we had the eagle hold a baseball bat instead of the [Great Seal’s] arrows.”
From the beginning, Vega’s t-shirts, silk-screened with the logo, provided the Ramones with their most consistent source of income. In later years, he became the band’s most devoted archivist and historian, as well as an insightful pop-culture observer. In SPIN’s 2012 oral history of Converse’s Chuck Taylor sneakers, Vega noted wryly of the shoe: “Chuck Taylors had that retro-trash-Americana thing, and punk-rock style was all about going back to the ’50s and pretending hippies didn’t happen.”
No further details of Vega’s death are currently available.