Joe Strummer - London Calling
Joe Strummer, co-founder, singer and guitarist of British punk band The Clash, was born John Graham Mellow on August 21, 1952 in Ankara, Turkey. His mother was Anna Mackenzie and father, Ronald Mellor. Mackenzie was raised in Bonar Bridge in the Scottish Highlands. His father, was born in Lucknow, India and served a British foreign service diplomat. Strummer’s maternal great grandfather was Armenian and great grandmother was German Jewish. His brother David was one year older than him. David died by suicide in 1970. Strummer died on December 22, 2002 from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
Strummer grew up traveling, spending childhood in Cairo, Mexico City and Bonn. In 1961 at 9 years old, he boarded at the City of London Freeman’s School in Surrey. After, he attended London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. He shared a flat during the summer of 1970 with Clive Timperley and Tymon Dogg.
In 1973, he became the vocalist for Flaming Youth. The band was later renamed, The Vultures. Strummer also worked as a gravedigger. When the group disbanded, he took to street performance. He then formed another band called, The 101’ers.
In 1975, he adopted the stage name of Joe Strummer.
In 1976, Strummer left the 101’ers and joined Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Terry Chimes and Keith Levene. They became The Clash. They made their debut on July 4, 1976 opening for the Sex Pistols. Their band was a part of the original wave of British punk. They achieved commercial success in the United Kingdom in 1977. Their third album, London Calling, released in 1979 and brought them popularity in the United States. The title track, “London Calling” was partially influenced by the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in March 1979. It also discusses the problems of racial conflict, rising unemployment and drug use in Britain. Rolling Stone magazine declared it the best album of the 1980’s.
In 1986, Strummer worked on songs “Love Kills” and “Dum Dum Club” for the movie Sid and Nancy. He held a small role in the film Walker and also performed on the movie’s soundtrack. In 1989, he played a role in the movie Mystery Train. In this year, he began producing solo records with a band called the Latino Rockabilly War. In the 1990s, he worked with other bands.
In 1998, he made a guest appearance on South Park.
Strummer’s final gig was at the Liverpool Academy on November 22, 2002. His final performance was two weeks before his death in December. Shortly before, however he and U2’s Bono co-wrote the song “46664” for Nelson Mandela’s campaign against AIDS in Africa.
In 2003, he and The Clash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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