In his fifty years, Joe Strummer did more for music than almost anyone
Front man of The Clash, The Mescaleros, The 101'ers and The Vultures
In the mid-1970’s, the punk movement was just beginning. Anxious to get away from being associated with the “light rock” music that was associated with rock n’ roll at the time, bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and the Clash led a movement away from the mainstream and provided an outlet for youth of every background to become part of a movement that stood up to the authority figures and government agencies that were seemingly at odds with their best interests.
Injecting social and political messages into their distorted, fast style of playing, the Clash became one of the best-known punk bands in the world, in great part due to the talent and magnetic personality of the band’s front man, Joe Strummer.
Born John Mellow in Ankara, Turkey on August 21, 1952, Strummer spent much of his childhood moving around with stops in Mexico City, Cairo, Egypt and Bonn, Germany. His love affair with rock music began when he started listening to records by Little Richard, the Beach Boys and Woody Guthrie.
After a series of traumatic events, Strummer moved to Newport, Wales in 1073. He renames a band he joined The Vultures and was the group’s part-time singer and rhythm guitar player for a year. After the disintegration of The Vultures, Strummer formed a band called the 101’ers, named after the address of their flat. In 1975 he adopted the stage name of Joe Strummer, a self-deprecating reference to his rhythm guitar playing.
In April 1976, the 101’ers opened for the Sex Pistols in London, and Strummer met Bernie Rhodes and Mick Jones at the show. Strummer agreed to leave the 101’ers to join Jones, bass player Paul Simonon, drummer Terry Chimes, and guitarist Keith Levene. The Clash deputed on July 4m 1976, opening for the Sex Pistols in Sheffield, England. After Levene and Chimes left the band, Topper Headon became the quartet’s long-time drummer. The Clash had a string of hit records before breaking up after the unsuccessful album Cut the Crap was released in 1985
For the next decade, Strummer contributed songs to movie soundtracks (Sid and Nancy, Walker) and starred in a file titled Straight to Hell, a title of a Clash song. Strummer bounced between projects until the formation of The Mescaleros in 1999.
Assembling a group of talented musicians to back him, Strummer formed The Mescaleros and released three albums with the band, the last, Streetcore, was released posthumously.
On December 22, 2002, Strummer died suddenly from a congenital heart defect at his home in Somerset, England. He was fifty years old.
Strummer’s legacy lives on through The Carbon Neutral Company (formerly Future Forests), an entity dedicated to planting trees around the world to combat global warming.
In 2003, The Clash was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Memorial films, murals and musical tributes followed his passing and reflected the impact the Strummer had over the years. Strummer left behind two daughters, Jazz and Lola, and his second wife, Lucinda Tait, at the time of his death.