We’ve been saying “RIP Joe Strummer” for twenty whole years now. It somehow doesn’t feel that long, but also feels longer.
I know that last sentence didn’t make sense. That’s by design. Like you, time has become elastic to me over the last three years. Sure, the COVID-19 pandemic is the primary reason. But I’m also in my mid-40s, so age is a culprit, too. And there are some cases where the death of a musician that I love just seems hard to nail down, time-wise.
Such is the case with Joe Strummer, he of The Clash and The Mescaleros and others. He of a punk rock spirit that inspired legions to pick up guitars, put pen to paper, and put their own spin on “three chords and the truth” (or two and some vague ideas). Joe Strummer vibrated on a different wavelength, somehow. The music he created is as timeless as the philosophies that he wove into his lyrics. Maybe that’s why it’s such a chore to come to grips with his being gone for twenty years.
RIP Joe Strummer, 20 Years Gone
On December 22, 2002, Joe Strummer took his dog for a walk around the neighborhood of his Broomfield, Somerset home. He came home, had a heart attack, and died. He was found by his wife, Lucinda Tate. He was only 50.
I was home for the Christmas holiday when I heard the news, so I was never able to pay a proper tribute to Strummer on the air. Maybe that’s part of the reason his death still seems so tough to get a handle on, 20 years on. Or maybe it’s the mundane way he died. Because Joe Strummer was anything but mundane. To so many of us, he was punk rock. And he is punk rock. And he will forever be punk rock.