Hilly Kristal, the founder of legendary New York punk club CBGB, has lost his battle with lung cancer at the age of 75. The beloved music fan opened the Bowery club in 1973 to showcase bluegrass and country acts, but the venue quickly became a hotbed for punk talent, and hosted early gigs by the Ramones, Patti Smith and Talking Heads, among others. Kristal was forced to close the club last year (Oct06) after losing a rent battle with the venue's landlords and he was in the process of relocating to Las Vegas, to open a CBGB there, when he fell ill this year (07). Kristal was born in Manhattan in 1932 and studied music at the revered Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After a stint of performing with a number of top live acts in the 1950s and 1960s, Kristal took over management of New York jazz club the Village Vanguard. A private memorial will be held at an undisclosed location, followed by a public tribute with details to be announced.