The Ballad of Joe Strummer
By Chris Salewicz
Faber & Faber, Hardcover, 9780571211784, 640pp.
Publication Date: May 15, 2007
List Price: $30.00*
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The Clash was--and still is--one of the most important groups of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Indebted to rockabilly, reggae, Memphis soul, cowboy justice, and '60s protest, the overtly political band railed against war, racism, and a dead-end economy, and in the process imparted a conscience to punk. Their eponymous first record and London Calling still rank in Rolling Stone's top-ten best albums of all time, and in 2003 they were officially inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Joe Strummer was the Clash's front man, a rock-and-roll hero seen by many as the personification of outlaw integrity and street cool. The political heart of the Clash, Strummer synthesized gritty toughness and poetic sensitivity in a manner that still resonates with listeners, and his untimely death in December 2002 shook the world, further solidifying his iconic status.
Music journalist Chris Salewicz was a friend to Strummer for close to three decades and has covered the Clash's career and the entire punk movement from its inception. With exclusive access to Strummer's friends, relatives, and fellow musicians, Salewicz penetrates the soul of an icon. He uses his vantage point to write the definitive biography of Strummer, charting his enormous worldwide success, his bleak years in the wilderness after the Clash's bitter breakup, and his triumphant return to stardom at the end of his life. In the process, Salewicz argues for Strummer's place in a long line of protest singers that includes Woody Guthrie, John Lennon, and Bob Marley, and examines by turns Strummer's and punk's ongoing cultural influence.
"God might be in the details, but as Redemption Song so vividly reveals, so is Joe Strummer, in all his flawed glory. As it turns out, the man who achieved the seemingly impossible -- he made punk rock noble -- was all too human. But as a wise man once said, 'The one who always strives can be redeemed.' That is the message of this remarkable book."
--Michael Azerrad, author of Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana and Our Band Could Be Your Life
"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."
--Jon Savage, author of England's Dreaming
"REDEMPTION SONG is the epic tale of rock & roll's unlikely, complicated rebel hero. Chris Salewicz was front and center for Joe Strummer's whole wild ride -- and he's got the scars and bruises to prove it."
--Alan Light, music journalist for Rolling Stone and The New York Times, and former editor-in-chief of Spin and Vibe: