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Joe Strummer Dies

Rick Belliveau
Date Published: 
February 14, 2003

“Authority is supposedly grounded in wisdom – but I could see from a very early age that authority is only a system of control and it didn’t have any inherent wisdom to it.”

This is a quote by the late Joe Strummer, who died quietly of a heart attack on December 22, 2002 – he was only 50 years old. Strummer is perhaps best remembered as the singer and political conscience of “the only band that matters” – The Clash. As a person, he came across as passionate, principled and honest.

When explaining the message of the Clash’s music he said, “We were trying to grope in a socialist way toward a future where the world might be a less miserable place than it is.” His lyrics were never dogmatic and he never pretended to have all the answers. Strummer’s anti-racist and anti-capitalist message was expressed in the lyrics of songs such as “White Man in Hammersmith Palais.” Strummer sings,

    White youth, black youth
    Better find another solution
    Why not phone up Robin Hood
    And ask him for some wealth distribution

Although Strummer is certainly one of the greatest innovators in the punk genre, he was always exploring other musical styles such as rockabilly, reggae, dub and rap. It is also important to note that Strummer was not some washed up icon basking in his former glory, his latest CD “Global a Go-Go” is an excellent work that defies any category.

Strummer’s social conscience never left him either, he recently performed at a benefit concert for the striking firefighters union in the UK and was working with Bono of U2 on a track to benefit an AIDS project in Africa. As we strive toward a better world, the presence of Joe Strummer will be missed.