On December 22, 2002, Joe Strummer of The Clash returned home after walking his dogs and died suddenly at the age of 50. The cause of death was a defective heart artery — who would’ve thought that Joe Strummer of all people would have a defective heart?
A humanitarian whose commitment to antiracist and antifascist ideologies fueled his passionate music, Strummer remains an inspiration for new generations of musicians 15 years after his tragically early demise. Not just for his songs, though Strummer’s music is surely great, particularly classic Clash albums like London Calling and Sandinista!. But also for the ideas that Strummer stood for, which remain resonant in these polarized times.
One of those people who was inspired by Strummer is Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, who paid tribute to Strummer in the 2008 song “Constructive Summer,” which includes the memorable lyric: “Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer / I think he might’ve been our only decent teacher.”
Finn actually met Strummer in 1999 when the iconic punk was performing in Minneapolis with his band, the Mescaleros. Strummer stopped by to see Finn’s band, Lifter Puller, and the pair wound up hanging out together during a long, memorable night. Finn shares this story in this week’s episode of the Celebration Rock Podcast, as well as his thoughts on Strummer’s legacy and what it means so many years after his death.