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Joe Strummer

Joe Strummer

Known For: Acting · Birthday: 1952-08-21 (68 years old)

28 Movies · 2 TV Series

Biography

John Graham Mellor (21 August 1952 – 22 December 2002), known from May 1975 as Joe Strummer, was a British musician, singer, songwriter, composer, actor, and radio host who was best known as the co-founder, lyricist, rhythm guitarist, and co-lead vocalist of punk rock band the Clash. Formed in 1976, the Clash's second album Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978) reached No. 2 on the UK charts. Soon after, they achieved success in the US, starting with London Calling (1979) and peaking with Combat Rock (1982), which reached No. 7 on the US charts and was certified 2× platinum there. The Clash's explosive political lyrics, musical experimentation, and rebellious attitude had a far-reaching influence on rock music in general, especially alternative rock. Their music incorporated reggae, ska, dub, funk, rap, and rockabilly. Strummer's other career highlights included stints with the 101ers, Latino Rockabilly War, the Mescaleros, and the Pogues, as well as solo music. His work as a musician allowed him to explore other interests such as acting, scoring television shows and films, hosting radio shows, and as a radio host on the BBC Radio show London Calling. Strummer and the Clash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 2003. In his remembrance, Strummer's friends and family established the Joe Strummer Foundation (initially known as Strummerville), a non-profit organisation which gives opportunities to musicians and support to projects around the world that create empowerment through music.

Personal Life

Strummer became a vegetarian in 1971, and remained so until his death in 2002.After being offered £100 (equivalent to £1,000 in 2019) to do so, Strummer married South African citizen Pamela Moolman in 1975 so she could obtain British citizenship (before the British Nationality Act 1981 came into force). He bought his signature Fender Telecaster, which was later painted black, with the money. In 1978, he started a relationship with Gaby Salter shortly after her 17th birthday. The couple remained together for 14 years and had two daughters, Jazz and Lola, but did not marry as Strummer had been unable to locate and divorce Moolman. During his relationship with Salter, he had multiple affairs throughout the 1980s. In 1993, he began an affair with Lucinda Tait, which finally ended his relationship with Salter. He was married to Tait from 1995 until his death in 2002. Strummer described himself as a socialist and explained, "I believe in socialism because it seems more humanitarian, rather than every man for himself and 'I'm alright Jack' and all those arsehole businessmen with all the loot. I made up my mind from viewing society from that angle. That's where I'm from and there's where I've made my decisions from. That's why I believe in socialism."

Early Life

Strummer was born John Graham Mellor in Ankara on 21 August 1952, the son of a Scottish mother and English father. His mother, Anna Mackenzie (1915–1986), was the daughter of a crofter and was born and raised in Bonar Bridge; she later became a nurse. His father, Ronald Ralph Mellor MBE (1916–1984), was born in the Indian city of Lucknow due to his own father's job as a railway official in India, and became a clerical officer who later attained the rank of second secretary in the foreign service. Through his father, Strummer had an Armenian great-grandfather and a German-Jewish great-grandmother. At the age of nine, Strummer and his 10-year-old brother David began boarding at the City of London Freemen's School in Surrey, and rarely saw their parents during the next seven years. He later said, "[A]t the age of nine I had to say good-bye to them because they went abroad to Africa or something. I went to boarding school and only saw them once a year after that – the Government paid for me to see my parents once a year. I was left on my own, and went to this school where thick rich people sent their thick rich kids. Another perk of my father's job – it was a job with a lot of perks – all the fees were paid by the Government."Strummer developed a love of rock music listening to records by Little Richard, the Beach Boys, and Woody Guthrie. Strummer would even go by the nickname "Woody" for a few years. He would later refer to the Beach Boys as "the reason [he] played music". By 1970, his brother had become estranged from the family. His suicide in July of that year profoundly affected Strummer, as did having to identify his body after it had lain undiscovered for three days. Strummer said, "[David] was a year older than me. Funnily enough, you know, he was a Nazi. He was a member of the National Front. He was into the occult and he used to have these deaths-heads and cross-bones all over everything. He didn't like to talk to anybody, and I think suicide was the only way out for him. What else could he have done[?]"After finishing his time at City of London Freemen's School in 1970, Strummer moved on to the Central School of Art and Design in London, where he briefly considered becoming a professional cartoonist and completed a one-year foundation course. During this time, he shared a flat in Palmers Green with friends Clive Timperley and Tymon Dogg. He said, "I bought a ukulele. No kidding. I saved some money, £1.99 I think, and bought it down Shaftesbury Avenue. Then the guy I was busking with taught me to play 'Johnny B. Goode'. [...] I was on my own for the first time with this ukulele and 'Johnny B. Goode'. And that's how I started."In 1973, Strummer moved to Newport. He did not study at Newport College of Art, but met up with college musicians at the students' union in Stow Hill and became the vocalist for Flaming Youth before renaming the band the Vultures. The Vultures included three former members of Rip Off Park Rock & Roll Allstars, the original college band co-founded by Terry Earl Taylor. For the next year, Strummer was the band's part-time singer and rhythm guitarist. During this time, he also worked as a gravedigger in St Woolos Cemetery. Whilst in Newport, he wrote and recorded on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder "Crumby Bum Blues", which was later used in Julien Temple's 2007 film Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten. In 1974, the band fell apart and Strummer moved back to London, where he met up again with Dogg. He was a street performer for a while and then decided to form another band with his roommates called the 101ers, named after the address of their squat at 101 Walterton Road in Maida Vale. The band played many gigs in London pubs, performing covers of popular American R&B and blues songs. In 1975, he stopped calling himself Woody Mellor and adopted the stage name Joe Strummer, subsequently insisting that his friends call him by that name. The surname "Strummer" apparently referred to his role as rhythm guitarist in a self-deprecating way. Strummer was the lead singer of the 101ers and began to write original songs for the group. One song he wrote was inspired by the Slits' drummer Palmolive, who was his girlfriend at the time. The group liked the song "Keys to Your Heart", which they picked as their first single.

Movies & TV Series

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