Anniversary of Joe Strummer's Death

12/22/2010
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On this day 2002, former Clash singer and guitarist Joe Strummer (John Graham Mellor) died of a suspected heart attack, aged 50. Gibson takes a look back: The Clash were always more worldly than their punk brethren, incorporating global beats from reggae, ska, rockabilly and even rap, on occasion. It was no coincidence, of course, that the band's leader had a more international background than the average English musician. Indeed, Joe Strummer was a unique character in the history of rock.

Born in Ankara, Turkey in August 1952, the future Joe Strummer was the son of a British diplomat and a Scottish mother. Little John Graham Mellor's (as he was named) family moved from post to post around the globe, with Egypt, Mexico and Germany serving as ports of call during his early childhood. Eventually, John and his brother were placed in a London boarding school, where they spent the next seven years. For John, boarding school was a steppingstone to artistic pursuits at London's Saint Martins College of Art and Design. For his brother David, life took a darker turn. David joined the White supremacist National Front and eventually committed suicide at just 19 years of age.

But John carried on, eventually getting involved in music. Living in Newport, Wales for a time at the age of 21, he began singing in a group called The Vultures (formerly Flaming Youth). He paid the bills during this formative period by working as gravedigger. After about a year, he moved back to London and began busking. Eventually, he caught on with a new pub rock outfit called The 101ers (originally called El Huaso and The 101 All Stars). The group (named after the band's squat at 101 Walterton Road, Maida Vale, London) garnered a decent following on the London club circuit between 1974 and 1976. They even did a bit of recording, though only a single came out while the band was still around. It was during this period that John had exchanged his original stage name, Woody Mellor, for the rather self-explanatory Joe Strummer. more on this story

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