Sheena of Sheena & the Rokkets Dies at 61
On Saturday, Feb. 14, Etsuko Ayukawa – known by her stage name Sheena Rokket, the frontwoman of the Japanese rock outfit, Sheena & the Rokkets -- passed away at the age of 61. The band’s label told the Japan Times that she died of cervical cancer in a Tokyo hospital.
Ayukawa was born in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture in 1954. In 1978, she and her husband, guitarist Makoto Ayukawa, started a band, for which Ayukawa adopted the moniker Sheena, lifting it from the Ramones song, “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.” Together, the four-piece outfit released their self-titled debut in 1979 and went on to produce hit singles like 1979’s “You May Dream” and “Lazy Crazy Blues” and 1981’s “Pinup Baby Blues.”
The band opened for Elvis Costello during his 1978 Japan tour and for the Ramones in 1980. In 1982, Sheena released her debut solo album, Beautiful.
Rock photographer Bob Gruen -- who has an extensive history with the Ramones and Sheena (his work is featured in the photo above) -- remembered the late frontwoman in a Facebook post earlier today (Feb. 16), writing:
RIP Sheena …Sheena was a punk rocker! For more than 35 years Sheena & the Rokkets were one of the best known bands in Japan…She took her name from the Ramones song, and went on to be the opening band when the Ramones came to Japan…. I was with Joey when we went to Sheena and Makoto’s house for dinner, she was a great cook!… If anyone could be as exciting onstage as Tina Turner, it was Sheena… in New York, they sold out CBGB twice...
Our thoughts go out to Ayukawa’s friends and family.