It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear something that didn't make you feel like smashing up the kitchen and strangling the cat.
The singer and rhythm guitarist for the only band that mattered, Joe Strummer was a founding member of The Clash and a seminal figure in the original wave of punk in the UK. His political and anti-establishment lyricism, as well his willingness to experiment musically drove The Clash to popularity unrivalled by their fellow punks, and his legacy is still felt not only in music, but in the many humanitarian causes that he championed throughout his life.
Born as John Graham Mellor in Turkey, Joe spent the early years of his life travelling around the world with his parents - his father was in the foreign service of the Government. When he was 9 he was sent to boarding school in London, and he would rarely see his parents again. It was at this school that he became aware of the difference in social class between the other boys and himself, later describing the school as “where thick rich people sent their thick rich kids”.
He wouldn’t acquire his signature Fender Telecaster until 1975, when he was offered £120 to marry a South African citizen for visa reasons. He had planned to divorce her shortly afterwards, but couldn’t locate her to do so, meaning that he would not remarry until 1995. The Clash formed in 1976 after The Sex Pistols opened a show for Joe’s pub band The 101ers (named after the squat where the band lived). Joe promptly got in touch with “some young yobbos” that he knew and formed a new band with them. The Clash became renowned for their overtly political songs that tackled issues such as class, race, police violence and much more. They broke musical boundaries by combining their punk ethos with reggae, soul and dance music, and headlined Rock Against Racism concerts. They survived as a band for less than 10 years, but their contribution to music was vast.
Strummer never stopped performing and embracing political messages - the last song that he wrote, 4664, was a charity single to raise money for AIDs awareness and treatments in Africa.