Socialist Worker

A photographic look at Joe Strummer’s legacy

by Andy Ridley
Issue No. 1955

Joe Strummer (left) fronting The Clash

Joe Strummer (left) fronting The Clash

Exposure Gallery,
22-23 Little Portland Street, London W1
until 30 June

Joe Strummer died suddenly in December 2002. Following his death, his family and friends launched Strummerville, a charity to help musicians without the money to create music. It aims to offer rehearsal space and studio time to those who would never normally get it.

Strummer would have approved of the initiative — he was a man who, through his music, always championed the rights of the underdog and the victimised. He spoke for and with disaffected youth, anti-racists and workers.

Joe Strummer is best known as the frontman for the group The Clash. Formed in 1976, the band quickly established themselves as key players in the punk rock explosion.

Their gigs were riotous, manic and exhausting. But, unlike the Sex Pistols, they weren’t simply driven by anger and hedonism. They wanted things to improve. They wanted racism, disillusionment and boredom to end. Their music reflected this.

It mixed reggae with ska with punk rock. This was new — a musical fusion that mirrored the black and white political unity that was developing to challenge racism. It was no accident that The Clash headlined the massive Rock Against Racism gig in east London in 1978.

They’ve been hugely influential ever since. An exhibition of back stage and on stage photos of Strummer and his musical collaborators are is being shown at the Exposure Gallery.

When great people die the interpretations of their lives and work are fought over. Do they become a commercial icon, or a momento of the past? Or do we build on the legacy they leave? Strummer’s life, times and music are well worth a look.

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Article information

Sat 11 Jun 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1955
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