Monday, August 22, 2011

Long Live Joe Strummer! 1952-2002

In honor of Joe Strummer, here's a snippet from an article that appeared in Revolution newspaper a few weeks after his death:

"Thinking about The Clash really brings to mind the space and the oxygen provided by the people's bands. The great revolutionary artists do not simply create inspiring music that exposes people to ideas and politics to change the world. They are a force of attraction that people gravitate towards. Millions come to live their lives by what these artists say, do, mean, and come to exemplify.

You see, The Clash had so much disdain for the bloodsuckers running the world, especially the Yankee fools. As one of the seminal bands of the late '70s punk explosion, where various bands embodied a straight-up fuck-you attitude to the status quo, The Clash also had and gave hope for the future.

From the days of '77 until the very end, Strummer was an internationalist. When The Clash jumped on the scene in England their music fostered and promoted common cause between the white working-class youth, Black people, and immigrants, especially the Dreads who had such an influence on them, helping define much of the band's sound. They embraced and fused dub reggae into their music, and even incorporated the early rap sound when hip-hop was only a baby.

Though I never saw The Clash live I did have the chance to meet Joe four or five times, and all in one night. Last year after I saw Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros he brought a few dozen people out to the bars. And all through the night Joe was talking it up with the people--old friends, new friends, people who didn't know who he was. He would approach you, ask you questions, dis you, talk to you about music, politics, the world, all interspersed with countless anecdotes about his many years making music and meeting people all over the world. With whatever struggles they went through as a band, and the bitterly painful breakup, Joe was so proud of The Clash and what they had done. It was so good to see Joe and his new band. He was carrying the torch, and in listening to their albums and seeing them live it felt like they could come to mean a lot to people. When you saw Strummer on stage, with the younger musicians behind him, it was something else. He was beaming with rapture and had more heart than most artists half his age these days. He stepped to each show like it was a battle, and they were gonna win."

Also, check out this video of Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros cover of "Redemption Song". It's a bad-ass tribute video filmed in New York's Lower East Side when graffiti artists Zephyr and Revolt where painting a mural in his honor. It has a lot of cool cameos, including one from the author of the article above. I really love the intro to the video; Strummer says some really beautiful things: "I'd like to say that people--people can change anything they want to. And that means everything in the world. Show me any country and they'll be people in it; it's time to take the humanity back into them--the center of the ring, and follow that for a time. You know, think on that: without people, you're nothing."

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