There’s a great new collection of essays about the inestimable Joe Strummer (1952–2002) that came out last month from Ashgate Publishing called Punk Rock Warlord: The Life and Work of Joe Strummer. I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute a chapter.
A much shortened, adapted version of that essay ran at PopMatters under the title “Joe Strummer: Punk-Rock Shapeshifter“:
Strummer wanted to be a lot of things: writer, artist, revolutionary, world-champion cigarette smoker. But what was probably most important to him was communication, whether about racial equality, how consumerism was crap, or just whatever was running through his roiling mind that week. He wanted to use his songs to get the word out. Rock stars can get the word out; they have a megaphone louder than that of the street-corner busker or pub-rocker that Joe started out as. If he was going to be a rock star, he needed a proper stage name…
Just for kicks, here’s a New York local news report from when Joe and the Clash barnstormed through the city in 1981: