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December 23, 2002


A Punk Rock Leader Dies
Joe Strummer, a founding member of the Clash, died on Sunday. He was 50.
Filed at 10:07 a.m. ET

LONDON (AP) -- Joe Strummer, lead singer of the legendary British punk band The Clash, has died, his record company said Monday. He was 50.

Strummer, who was the band's guitarist, vocalist and songwriter alongside Mick Jones, died on Sunday. The British Broadcasting Corp. quoted The Clash's video director Don Letts as saying Strummer died of a heart attack.

A statement released by his record label said Strummer ``died peacefully at his home'' in Broomfield in the southern county of Somerset.

It added that Strummer's wife Lucy, two daughters and stepdaughter ``request privacy at this harrowing time.''

Hein van der Rey, managing director of Epitaph Records, which had produced two albums for Strummer's latest band, The Mescaleros, said he learned of the death Monday morning.

``We do not know the circumstances. It is pretty devastating news,'' he said.

He said Strummer, who was born John Mellor, had been working on a third album with The Mescaleros.

Strummer's death was announced on his official Web site. ``Joe Strummer died yesterday,'' said the simple statement. ``Our condolences to Luce and the kids, family and friends.''

Strummer was born in Ankara, Turkey, the son of a British diplomat.

``The Clash'' were known for injecting left wing politics into punk. Their album ``London Calling'' was named the best album of the 1980s by Rolling Stone magazine, despite being released in 1979.

Between 1977 and 1982 Strummer and Jones composed, performed and recorded dozens of songs, using musical ideas from reggae and rockabilly as well as punk. With Jones's crisp guitar playing and Strummer's staccato, Cockney voice, the band, which also included Keith Levene, Paul Simonon, Terry Chimes Nicky ``Topper'' Headon, was hugely popular and gave electrifying stage performances.

``Their music is primitive and aggressive,'' reported the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, ``but the chemistry is combustible. On stage they are a complete audiovisual experience, driven forward on a wave of passion and pure energy.''

In 1980, a fight erupted during a concert in Hamburg, Germany and Strummer was arrested after hitting a fan with his guitar.

In 1982, he disappeared for three weeks, forcing the band to cancel their tour of the United Kingdom. Strummer later explained that he had doubts about his career, so he went to Paris and had been ``living like a bum.''

The band signed with CBS Records for $200,000, and their first album ``Clash,'' was released in the United Kingdom in 1977. The record company considered the album too crude for U.S. release, however. It wasn't until 1979 that a compilation album would be released as ``The Clash'' in America.

The band split in the early 1980s after a dispute between Strummer and Jones, who subsequently formed the group Big Audio Dynamite (BAD).

Strummer recently collaborated with Bono of U2 and Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics to write a song in honor of former South African President Nelson Mandela. Titled ``48864,'' Mandela's number in prison, the song is to be played at a Feb. 2 AIDS benefit concert Mandela is sponsoring at his former prison on Robben Island.