The late punk icon would’ve turned 68
Hey! Just wanted to give a birthday shout to our punk icon in Heaven, the incomparable Joe Strummer.
Beyond his work with The Clash, Joe was instrumental in helping two generations of music fans appreciate new pop sounds on a global scale with his vastly underappreciated solo catalog, which kicked off with his score for the 1987 Alex Cox western Walker and closed out unexpectedly with 2003’s Streetcore, his wonderful third and final album with his last group The Mescaleros.
I consider myself to be incredibly lucky to have seen Joe Strummer with The Mescaleros twice during their time together–once at the Roseland Ballroom in 1999 and again at the Irving Plaza in 2001. And as you can see in the full Roseland show below, it was 55 minutes of everything a Clash fan could want in a Strummer show.
Right up until the unexpected fatal heart attack that took him away from us on December 22, 2002, the physical vessel embodying the soul of Joe Strummer was such a vital voice for disenfranchised people in all corners of civilization. And 18 years after his spirit returned to the stars, his songs and his philosophy remain scripture to most of us who grew up with his revolutionary sound in our ears.
Even today, on what would have been his 68th birthday, Joe’s memory continues to serve as a harbinger of hope and perspective in a time when we need his words the most. Earlier today, Jesse Malin in conjunction with the revamped Dark Horse Records imprint put together one helluva of a posthumous birthday celebration for the man whose tribute mural adorns the site of his beloved dive bar Niagra. The free event will benefit Save Our Stages, which is being spearheaded by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) to preserve and protect the USA’s independent live music venues and promoters.
And the list of those who participated in this event spans across age, race, gender and political affiliation to include the likes of Albert Hammond Jr., Beto O’Rourke, Bob Gruen, Bob Weir, Bruce Springsteen, Spider Stacy and Cait O’Riordan of The Pogues, Dhani Harrison, HR of Bad Brains, Jim Jarmusch, Joe Ely, Lucinda Williams, Matt Dillon Steve Buscemi, Tom Morello and others. Some of my personal favorite moments from the broadcast was Cherry Glazerr doing a woozy, Spector-tripping take on “Charlie Don’t Surf,” Madrid pop group Hinds performing “Spanish Bombs” on a city street and a stirring version of the Streetcore highlight “Long Shadow” by Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem.
“Authority is supposedly grounded in wisdom, but I could see from a very early age that authority was only a system of control and it didn’t have any inherent wisdom. I quickly realised that you either became a power or you were crushed.”
“The future is unwritten…”
“You have the right not to be killed, unless it was done by a policeman or an aristocrat.”
“It’s the best years of your life they want to steal.”
So many of Joe Strummer’s quotes are sadly all too applicable in the present tense as the United States votes in the most important presidential election since Hoover v. Roosevelt in 1932. And we should be all grateful these words still exist in our skies to help us through these next few weeks.
Happy Birthday, Joe.
Please check out our exclusive mixtape of Strummer’s solo years here.
VIDEO: A Song For Joe–Celebrating the Birthday of Joe Strummer
VIDEO: Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros at the Roseland 1999