Born John Graham Mellor on 21 August 1952 in Ankara Turkey to a Scottish mother and Diplomat Father. John had a mixed bag as a kid being shipped off to Boarding School paid for by the state due to his fathers job he spent the next seven years at Boarding school alleging he rarely saw his parents due to his fathers job.
Mellor changed his name in the mid ’70s from Woody (after Woody Guthrie) changing it to Strummer as a way of self deprecation as to his style in the band 101ers . Upon his insistence the name stuck and how different would the history books have looked no Joe Strummer instead Woody Mellor!
Early ’76 saw an unknown band called The Sex Pistols support the 101ers at the Nashville Rooms, shortly after he was approached by Bernie Rhodes and Mick Jones to join their band that also included Keith Levine, Terry Chimes and Paul Simonon. It was Paul who named the band just before their July Debut in Sheffield supporting The Pistols and as they say the rest is history.
When the Clash broke up after a whirlwind decade of chaos and destruction and some very high highs and ultimately low lows. After a luke warm solo career and getting dropped by Sony, Strummer spent some time producing the likes of The Pogues and playing a bunch of shows with them as a repecement for Shane McGowan before he put together the Mescaleros.
It wasn’t until the late ’90s that they put out their first album ‘Rock Art and the X-Ray Style’. After touring heavily Strummer headed straight back into the studio to record its follow up ‘Global A Go-Go’ for Hellcat Records. After heading back out on tour on the 15th of November 2002, Strummer and the Mescaleros played a benefit show for striking fire fighters in London, at the Acton Town Hall. Mick Jones was in the audience, and joined the band on stage during the Clash’s ‘Bankrobber’. An encore followed with Jones playing guitar and singing on ‘White Riot’ and ‘London’s Burning’. This performance marked the first time since 1983 that Strummer and Jones had performed together on the same stage stage. the news that fans had been waiting for seemed like it might become a reality with The Clash reforming and heading out on tour. Strummer’s final gigs were Liverpool Academy on 22 November 2002, yet his final performance, just two weeks before his death, was in a small club venue ‘The Palace’ in Bridgwater, Somerset, near his home.
Heartbreakingly, Strummer died suddenly on 22 December 2002 in his home at Broomfield in Somerset, the victim of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. Strummer was cremated, and his ashes were given to his family. Strummer was instrumental in setting up Future Forests (since rechristened the Carbon Neutral Company), dedicated to planting trees in various parts of the world to combat global warming. Strummer was the first artist to make the recording, pressing and distribution of his records carbon neutral through the planting of trees. In his remembrance, Strummer’s friends and family have established the Strummerville Foundation for the promotion of new music, which holds an annual festival with the same name.
At the time of his death, Strummer was working on another Mescaleros album, which was released posthumously in October 2003 under the title ‘Streetcore’. It was discovered following Strummer’s death that he was an archivist of his own work, having barns full of writings and tapes. Over 20,000 items were stored in the Joe Strummer archive and on 28 September 2018, a 32-song compilation album titled ‘Joe Strummer 001’ was released. The album, which was overseen by Strummer’s widow, Lucinda, and producer Robert Gordon McHarg III, features 32 songs, 12 of which have never been released. The set spans Strummer’s career from the 101ers to the Mescaleros and features some unheard demos from the Clash following the departure of Mick Jones, along with an unreleased song recorded by Jones and Strummer in 1986. The set also features two of Strummer’s final recordings and is one of the best box sets available not just for Strummer or Clash completists its well worth getting hold of.. Joe Strummer will never be forgotten and will always be held up as one of the true musical geniuses and pioneers. He was responsible for writing and recording some of the best song to come out of the punk scene in the ’70s and always came across as one of the good guys and he’s sadly missed today its hard to believe hes been gone seventeen years. RIP Strummer you legend.