What do the CLASH and Woody Guthrie have in common?

The answer… Joe Strummer.

Joe StrummerStrummer, John Graham Mellor (21 August 1952 – 22 December 2002), was the co-founder, lyricist, rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist of the The Clash. The Clash was on the forefront of British punk in the 80’s, and like Guthrie, spoke their minds about touchy political topics in their songs.

And the association goes deeper. Joe Strummer developed a love of rock music listening to American recording artists like Little Richard and The Beach Boys as well as American folk-singer Woody Guthrie. Strummer’s appreciation for Guthrie was so profound, he actually went by the nickname “Woody” for several years.

Per Strummer,

“I was born in Ankara, then I grew up and learned some Woody Guthrie Songs. Then I joined the Clash. My father isn’t rich. He’s got an M.G. 1000 and a bungalow in South Croydon. He was born in India. His father died when he was eight, so he went to an orphan school. He was smart and worked himself up in the civil service. Now he works in the public records office. He’s a white collar worker.”

Per Woody,

Woody Guthrie“A folk song is what’s wrong and how to fix it or it could be

who’s hungry and where their mouth is or

who’s out of work and where the job is or

who’s broke and where the money is or

who’s carrying a gun and where the peace is.” – WG

So it was with Strummer. Strummer and The Clash constantly sang about revolution and the working class, though Strummer himself was a student at boarding school. He was separated from his parents, an outsider. London Calling and The Magnificent Seven are Clash classics in the folk tradition but with an irreverent punk sound, speaking out about British and world politics.  Dictator takes a poke at American’s foreign policy, and there are many more.

Like Woody, Joe identified with his audience. The “outsider” role for both was an essential element of their political and social positioning.  Guthrie’s “I Ain’t Got No Home”, “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad”, “Talking Dust Bowl Blues”, “Tom Joad” and “Hard Travelin’”; all reflect his desire to give voice to those who had been disenfranchised.

After the Clash, Strummer explored other interests, including acting, creating film scores for television and movies, songwriting, radio broadcasting, and a being  a radio host. Strummer is one of the iconic figures of the British punk movement. Strummer’s legacy includes The Clash being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. The Clash produced 6 albums (16 vinyl faces), numerous singles and is still considered as one of the most powerful creative musical units of the last part of the 20th century.  Today,  Strummer’s friends and family have established the Strummerville Foundation for the promotion of new music. The foundation produces many festivals as well as organized and spontaneous ceremonies worldwide to celebrate his memory.

Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie (July 14, 1912 – October 3, 1967) is a Legend whose musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children’s songs, ballads and other works. He frequently performed with the slogan This Machine Kills Fascists displayed on his guitar. His best-known song is “This Land Is Your Land”. In addition to Strummer, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, Joe and Tom Paxton have acknowledged their debt to Guthrie as an influence. His son Arlo Guthrie and Sarah Lee Guthrie have followed in his footsteps and carry on the legacy.

In closing, here is Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash … Redemption Song

Speak your minds…….


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