Place of Death
Broomfield, Somerset, England
Cause of Death
undiagnosed congenital heart defect
Claim to Fame
John Graham Mellor (21 August 1952 – 22 December 2002), known by his stage name Joe Strummer, was a British musician, singer, actor and songwriter who was the co-founder, lyricist, rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist of the Clash, a punk rock band that formed in 1976 as part of the original wave of British punk. Their music also incorporated elements of reggae, ska, dub, funk, rap, and rockabilly. The Clash were one of the most prominent of the emerging bands in the UK punk rock scene, with their second album, Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978) reaching number 2 on the UK charts. Soon after, they began achieving success in the US, starting with London Calling (1979), and peaking with 1982's Combat Rock, reaching number 7 on the US charts and being certified 2× platinum there. The Clash's politicised lyrics, musical experimentation, and rebellious attitude had a far-reaching influence on rock, and alternative rock in particular.
Profile Bio Text
Joe Strummer was born as John Graham Mellor in Ankara, Turkey on August 21, 1952. His mother, a crofter`s daughter and one of nine children born and raised in the Scottish Highlands, was a nurse. His father was a British foreign-service diplomat who had been born in Lucknow, India. He was of partial Armenian ancestry. The family spent much time moving from place to place, and Mellor spent his childhood in places such as Cairo, Mexico City, and Bonn. At the age of 9, Mellor and his older brother David, 10, began boarding at the City of London Freemen`s School in Surrey. Mellor rarely saw his parents during this time. He developed a love of rock music listening to records by Little Richard and The Beach Boys as well as American folk-singer Woody Guthrie. (Mellor would even go by the name "Woody" for a few years, following his brother`s suicide in July 1970, until changing his name to "Joe Strummer" a year and a half before the Clash was formed.) After finishing his time at City of London Freemen`s School, Ashtead Park, Surrey, in 1970, Strummer moved on to London`s Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, where he briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a professional cartoonist, but ultimately completed a foundations course. During this time, Strummer shared a flat in the north London suburb of Palmers Green with friends Clive Timperley and Tymon Dogg.
In 1973 Strummer moved to Newport, Wales to attend the Newport College of Art, but soon dropped out. While there, he joined up with some friends to form a band called The Vultures. This band included three former members of Rip Off Park Rock & Roll Allstars, the original college band co-founded by Terry Earl Taylor. For the next year he was the band`s part-time singer and rhythm guitarist. During this time Strummer also worked as a gravedigger. In 1974, the band fell apart and he moved back to London where he met up again with Tymon Dogg. He busked on the streets for a while and then decided to form another band with his West London roommates. The band was called The 101`ers, named for the address of their squat (101 Walterton Road, in Maida Vale). The band played many gigs in London pubs, playing covers of popular American R&B and blues songs. In 1975 he changed his name from "Woody" Mellor to Joe Strummer, and insisted that his friends call him by that name. The name "Strummer" apparently refers to his role as rhythm guitarist, in a rather self-deprecating way. Though left-handed, he was taught to play right-handed by his friend Tymon Dogg; this hampered his abilities somewhat and confined him to strumming chords. Strummer was the lead singer of the 101`ers and began to write original songs for the group. One song he wrote was inspired by his girlfriend at the time, Slits drummer Palmolive. The group liked the song "Keys to Your Heart", and picked it as their first single.On April 3, 1976, a then-unknown band called the Sex Pistols opened for The 101`ers at a venue called "The Nashville Rooms" in London, and Strummer was impressed by them. Sometime after this show, Strummer was approached by Bernie Rhodes and Mick Jones. Jones was from the band London SS and wanted Strummer to join as lead singer. Strummer agreed to join just as the group was breaking up, but he formed a new band with Jones, bassist Paul Simonon, drummer Terry Chimes and guitarist Keith Levene. The band was named The Clash by Simonon and made their debut on July 4, 1976, opening for the Sex Pistols at The Black Swan (a.k.a. The Mucky Duck, now known as the Boardwalk Sheffield, England). On January 25, 1977 the band signed with CBS Records and was now a three-piece after Levene was fired from the band and Chimes quit. Drummer Topper Headon later became the band`s full-time drummer.
The Clash are considered one of the most overtly political, explosive and exciting bands in rock and roll history. Their songs tackled social decay, unemployment, racism, police brutality, political and social repression, militarism and, occasionally, sex. Strummer was involved with the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism campaigns. He later also gave his support to the Rock Against the Rich series of concerts organised by the anarchist organisation Class War. The Clash`s London Calling album was voted best album of the 1980s by Rolling Stone magazine (although it was released in late 1979 in the UK, it was released in 1980 in the USA). The Clash`s influence can be clearly heard in countless subsequent rock bands.
During his time with The Clash, Strummer, along with his bandmates, became notorious for getting in trouble with the law. On June 10, 1977, he and Topper were arrested for spray-painting "The Clash" on a wall in a hotel. On May 20, 1980, he was arrested for hitting a violent member of the audience with his guitar during a show in Hamburg, Germany. This incident shocked Strummer, and had a lasting personal impact on him.
Before the album Combat Rock was released in 1982, Strummer disappeared from the group after pressure from the group`s manager, Bernie Rhodes, because tickets were selling slowly for the Scottish leg of an upcoming tour. It was planned for Strummer to meet and stay with one of Rhodes` friends in secret. However, Strummer, uneasy with his decision, decided to genuinely disappear and "dicked around" in France. During this time, Joe ran the Paris Marathon in April 1982. He claimed his training regime consisted of 10 pints of beer the night before the race. For this period of time, Joe`s whereabouts were not only a mystery to the public, but the bands management as well. Joe later said this was a huge mistake and you "have to have some regrets". This was in spite of the popular success of the single "Rock the Casbah". During this time band members began to argue a lot, and with tensions high, the group began to fall apart. In September 1983, Strummer issued the infamous "Clash Communique", and fired Mick Jones. Topper Headon had earlier been kicked out of the band because of his heroin addiction, which now left the band with only two of its original members. Rhodes persuaded Strummer to carry on and added new members. "The Clash Mark Two" released the album Cut The Crap in 1985. The album was panned by fans and critics alike and Strummer disbanded The Clash.
Strummer died on December 22, 2002 in his home at Broomfield in Somerset, the victim of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
Couple Profile Source
Full Name at Birth
John Graham Mellor
Soundtrack, Actor/Actress, Music Department
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Has Detailed Data (Music)
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Music Profile Complete
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Music Genre (Text)
Punk rock, alternative rock, world music, reggae, ska, rockabilly, funk, folk
Musician, songwriter, radio host, actor
Vocals, guitar, piano
CBS, Sony, Hellcat, Mercury
The 101ers, The Clash, The Latino Rockabilly War, The Pogues, The Mescaleros