Welcome back to the blog on a date that is forever going to remain Joe Strummer’s Birthday. I don’t know if any famous battles or inventions, voyages of discovery or weddings took place on August 21st but for me this remains quite simply Joe’s day and the more cheerful of the two anniversaries that we mark on the calendar each year. Joe should have turned 61 years old today, I can’t fathom that we’ve been over ten and a half years without him.
As I approach fifty I realise many of you are doing the same or have passed that landmark – suddenly the brevity of Joe’s life seems even more apparent. When I look back at video of concerts or interviews during his days with The Mescaleros it was a renaissance taking place and the end never looked even vaguely imminent. It still seems more than a little surreal and as we age Joe is forever caught in our memories as the young man who fronted The Clash or we may reflect on a dash of Joe in his late forties enjoying finding a hard working band again and his audience who were thrilled to see him touring again. It’s a good memory – a happy memory – and one that I tend to celebrate rather than sit here and feel gloomy or despondent.
Of course and naturally he’s missed, he meant the world to me growing up – and while I can’t tell you the birthdays or specific quotes from people I was closer to in a family sense I can relay information about Joe and the rest of the band until people get sick of listening. People might not understand us but having something constant in your life and someone you care about from an early age is at once motivating and grounding, Joe Strummer became a beacon to me when I was about twelve and remains so now. I can’t say that about many people.
So as ever I implore you to try not to mourn Joe Strummer not being with us now but to celebrate his life, celebrate how he inspired you and most importantly of all take that inspiration to do something positive in your own life and how you relate to the people you know and the strangers you meet. For all of the records and concerts, lyrics and photographs – the part of Joe that seems to carry in people’s memories who knew him well was his love for people and his love for life, meeting people and understanding them. He ultimately did have faith in humanity and community and while that can seem almost impossible to find during the tough times I think it’s a perfectly good starting point for us all.
It’s a strange feeling at the moment as the box set is bringing The Clash back into the mainstream focus the last few months and as a result the media and more casual observers are queuing up to explain how great the band were. There’s nothing wrong with that at all but at times like these and seeing pictures of the three members of The Clash today just reminds me that we’re missing such a vital ingredient and yeah that truly aches. I’m sure even more so for Mick, Topper and Paul.
The music will always endure and the whole concept of a ‘legacy’ is whatever definition you choose to impart upon it – not what the press and radio personalities tell us. But you already knew that. Whatever Joe means to you I respect 100% and I feel united by knowing that you read this from almost every country on the planet to stay connected as Clash fans, as Joe fans or simply as people who shared a unique experience that still I hope guides us to some degree. I recently read ‘Vision of a Homeland’ and it seems Joe thought the whole internet community was both odd and intriguing at the same time, I think he would have ended up being part of the medium because he loved people and connecting wit them.
Of course I wish Joe were still here, I wish I could moan about having to spend $60 to see him in Los Angeles in a few months and wonder how the 8th Mescaleros album was going to sound. I wish I was writing this blog and hopefully trying to find a way to chat to him for five minutes about it and remind him (as if he needed that) just how much he has meant to us, insist he answer a few blog questions if he had time. No matter how much I wish all of those things I’m more grateful to the fact that he was there for twenty odd years in my life and remains so still today. If you have a nephew or niece or a child of your own share with them your experience and chuck on some Clash records, it won’t shock you to find out that time doesn’t soften the message.
Not for the first time I’ve rambled on too long – today’s blog is about your thoughts not mine. So in time-honoured tradition please feel free to share your birthday messages, memories or comments below. Whatever you fancy works for me, a lyric, photo or video link – completely up to you.
I won’t have much time to update the blog today but I will make sure they all appear on the birthday post forever.
Cheers Joe and a happy 61st birthday to you, thanks for everything.