Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Titan of the Clash: Commemorating the 60th Birthday of the Late, Great Joe Strummer

On August 21, 1952, John Graham Mellor was born in Ankara, Turkey, the son of a British diplomat and a Scottish nurse. In the mid-to-late '70s, he would become better known as Joe Strummer, co-founder, lead vocalist, guitarist and lyricist of The Clash.

Although I liked the Clash from the first time I heard "London Calling," around the time of the album's release in 1980, for a long time I mistakenly thought Mick Jones was the band's main singer and de facto leader, likely because of his subsequent success with Big Audio Dynamite while Strummer laid relatively low.

And even by the late '90s, when Strummer was releasing pretty good albums with the Mescaleros, I foolishly never made a point of trying to see him live, even though a number of Clash songs were part of his set.

Sadly, in December 2002, shortly after he and Jones had their only post-Clash on-stage reunion at a Mescaleros charity gig in London, Strummer died suddenly at the age of 50 from a congenital heart defect.

Since then, via a couple fine documentaries--The Future is Unwritten and Let's Rock Again--and a near constant exploration of the Clash's extraordinary musical output, I've come to appreciate--well beyond I had during his lifetime--just how great, important and influential Joe Strummer was. He was, with due respect to Joey Ramone and Johnny Rotten, probably the greatest punk rocker ever, all the more so because of how far the Clash transcended "punk."

So while he's not around to celebrate his 60th birthday, beyond just the power of YouTube--from which I include a number of choice videos--Joe Strummer indeed lives on, as he conceivably forever will.

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