Why You Should Care About Joe Strummer
The British punk movement of the '70s had no shortage of dangerously exciting bands and captivating characters, but lasting power was on short supply. That's where The Clash comes in. The London band transcended the scene's live-fast-die-young mindset, producing a series of enduring records that took punk rock's manic energy and added an elevated songwriting sensibility. By marrying rock, reggae, dub, and rockabilly, they were able to forge a new sound—and at the center of it all was Joe Strummer, the band's charismatic lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter.
Strummer was cool, handsome, and, most importantly, he had integrity. He was a musician inspired by social activism, and an activist who understood the power of songs. Of The Clash's music, Strummer said he wanted to be "a loud voice of protest," and that "punk rock, at the heart of it, should be protest music." Even David Bowie was a fan, claiming that, "The Clash turned punk into a proper political movement"—and that is no small part of the band's legacy.
"The Only Band That Matters"
Where much of punk openly prioritized style over substance, The Clash were the perfect merging of the two. They were hip, dangerous, and intelligent—with the songs to match. An ad put out by their record label called them "the only band that matters," and they were able to back up such a bold claim with the release of their classic album, London Calling, which won over die-hard punks and new audiences alike.
Joe Strummer Influenced All the Bands You Like, Seriously
Here are just a few of the artists who cite The Clash as a major inspiration.
M.I.A.'s breakout hit, "Paper Planes," is anchored by a sample of The Clash's 1982 single, "Straight to Hell" (which you can hear on our Clash playlist, of course).
The Strokes have made no secret of their fandom of The Clash, and their cover of "Clampdown" has long been a part of their live set. They even brought it back at New York City's Governors Ball festival this past June.
The band has covered The Clash's "Hateful," and bassist Tony Kanal took part in a Grammys tribute performance for Joe Strummer after he passed away in 2002, alongside Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Elvis Costello.
Of Joe Strummer, U2's lead singer Bono has said that "he managed to influence more than one generation with his innovative and determined manner, and I am not alone in repeatedly turning to his thoughts and lyrics when searching for inspiration. The Clash was the greatest rock band. They wrote the rule book for U2."
For our playlist of the most essential tunes by The Clash, find us on Spotify @wearesweet! And for more on London Town, visit ifcfilms.com.