Today would have been Joe Strummer's 60th birthday, but he passed away in December 2002 of a heart attack, days before Christmas.
He left behind a wife and three daughters, plus thousands of years of music and memories.
The loss was like a punch to the gut, made even more bitter because he and fellow Clash man Mick Jones were looking to be reuniting, for serious this time. Here is a video from late 2002 of Jones and Strummer running through some Clash cuts.
Even the idea that he has been dead for almost a decade baffles me, since his influence is all around us, and only seemed to grow after his passing. Everyone -- rockers, punks, hip-hoppers, even techno heads -- carry his stamp.
The only person that would have ever rivaled him in coolness is Bill Murray. I mean, Strummer wrote for Vice, when Vice was still cool and Gavin McInnes was still around.
His solo albums are above and beyond some of the best stuff that any ex-Clash member have created since their final breakup in 1986, and his three albums with the Mescaleros can stand next to any of the material that The Only Band That Matters ever recorded.
I remember being a young punker obsessed with Strummer and hearing someone call him the "thinking man's Bruce Springsteen" and I am still seduced by that statement. The two artists shared a common bond, and after I read this short essay that Strummer wrote about Springsteen for a documentarian it all made sense.
Imagine those two in the studio or on tour together...
"Bruce is great ... if you don't agree with that, you're a pretentious Martian from Venus!" wrote Strummer. A few months after his death, Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl, and others would play "London Calling" at the Grammy's in Strummer's honor.
For further Strummering, be sure to catch the Julien Temple documentary The Future Is Unwritten, released in 2007, five years after Strummer's death.
"It's A Rockin' World"
"Silver and Gold"
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"Redemption Song" (with Johnny Cash)