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Happy birthday Joe Strummer

August 21, 2008 |  8:12 am


Joe Strummer was born on this day in 1952 and died of a heart attack 50 years later. After his death, friends and relatives talked to British music journalist Chris Salewicz, who penned an authorized biography. "Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer" was published in the U.S. last year, all 629 pages of it.

Jon Savage, author of "England's Dreaming: The Story of the Sex Pistols," wrote:

Joe Strummer was one of the most electrifying rock stars of all time. Chris Salewicz's in-depth biography is a labor of love that definitively captures the man's humanity — his complex, volatile and vulnerable soul.

In the New York Times, Robert Christgau expressed frustration at Salewicz's focus.

With the Clash’s biography already written, he wanted to honor his mate’s entire life, which continued for nearly twice as many years as his band lasted.

But that's exactly why it's called "Redemption Song," not "London Calling" or "The Story of the Clash." Christgau rightly points out that Joe Strummer was famous because he was a member of a band, not an individual. And for more than a dozen years, Strummer had to reconcile himself to being an individual, not the lead singer of the Clash.

Those years also got some attention in Julian Temple's 2007 documentary, "Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten" -- video after the jump.

Julian Temple talks about his film:

Watch videos for "London Calling," "Rock the Casbah," and a live, not-safe-for-work version of "White Riot." Because what was Joe Strummer if not safe for work?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo from "Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten"