Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer

Book Reviews | Jun 17th, 2007

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Author: Chris Salewicz
Publisher: Farrar Straus and Giroux
Genre: Biography
Pages: 640
Retail Price: 9.99
Buy on Amazon.com link

I remember the day when Joe Strummer passed away. I was sleeping, and it was in the morning and my brother came into my room.

“Joe Strummer passed away!” My immediate response was “WHAT!? This really sucks!” Than I asked how and realized he was still very young. Like with a lot of musicians and singers I love that have passed away, I would put their music on for a week straight and just listen to them to give them a salute. I just always dreaded having my family come into my room in the morning, because I knew someone passed away. The same thing happened when Joey Ramone died. These rock stars are just leaving this world too damn quickly and it saddens me. Joe Strummer was finally back to making great music and touring a lot, and he passes away from heart failure. I’m an idiot for not seeing Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros live before he died. There are a few songs from the Clash & Joe Strummer that almost bring a tear to my eye, just thinking of how early he left this world. But the only thing people can really do is hold onto their memories of the guy and his music with the Clash, Mescaleros, etc. Once I heard this book was coming out, I wanted to get it because I didn’t really know everything about Strummer. In Redemption Song: the Ballad of Joe Strummer, you get a detail look at the life & death of Joe Strummer of the Clash, written by journalist and friend of Strummer’s, Chris Salewicz. Chris followed Joe Strummer’s career for almost 30 years. His writings come from his point of view, but his accounts also come from interviews and discussions with Strummer and stories from friends & family members.

Salewicz first writes about how he found out Joe’s death, and then goes into detail about the funeral. Then you find out a lot detail about the beginning of Joe Strummer’s life. He was born John Mellor, in Turkey to diplomat parents. In the beginning, his parents would take his brother and him to the places they were stationed. But once they hit school age, Joe & his brother were stuck in boarding schools. You find out in the book that Strummer’s brother committed suicide, Joe was a squatter before joining the Clash, and Joe also suffered from depression most of his life. I think the book gets the most interesting when it’s all about the Clash and tales from behind the scenes. Once the Clash broke up in 1985, things seemed to go sour for Strummer. Drugs/alcohol/depression, the usual stuff you hear in a rock star’s life going downhill. Although, The stories about Strummer pick up steadily towards the end when Joe joins the Mescaleros. It’s really interesting to me to know all the details about the punk rock star but not sure ordinary music fans will like this book all that much. This book seems like it was just written for the Clash/Strummer die-hard fans, which is probably why I liked reading this book. But to me, the book does seem to go all over place and isn’t constructed really that well. But I think if you’re set out on reading the book about Strummer, you’ll get through it. I’m only half way through the book and like what I’ve read so far. Sorry, I’m a slow reader.

Bottom Line: A great, in-depth look at Joe Strummer
Favorite Part(s): Stuff about the Clash
Overall Rating:

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