Iconic Clash frontman Joe Strummer passed away a little over ten years ago on December 22nd, 2002. He was 50 years old, and died too soon, leaving his family, friends, and fans reeling with shock and sadness. Strummer was the kind of rock star who could renounce fame and mean it, who escaped the London punk scene with integrity and health intact, and who was a larger-than-life humanitarian, yet also an approachable everyman. It’s all these qualities and, of course, the songwriting, the distinctive mumble and growl, the indelible image, and the writing and acting cred that have endeared him to a few generations of loyal admirers. In addition to all of the above, Joe Strummer was also a free-form radio DJ, playing an eclectic mix of classic punk, reggae, folk, jazz, afrobeat, and about a dozen other genres, all sequenced perfectly and introduced in his distinctive, asphalt baritone.
Strummer hosted his UK radio show, “Joe Strummer’s London Calling,” through 1998, then again in 2000-2001 (excerpt above). He played his share of Clash songs, as well as—in the later episodes—the occasional track from his last project, Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros.
But aside from the expected punk and reggae, there was no telling what he might cue up next; from the Balkan Folk of Emir Kusturica and The No Smoking Orchestra to the new wave rhumba of Zaire’s Thu-Zahina, Strummer had one hell of an eclectic collection, which should surprise no one who knows his work, but it’s still a joy to hear him spin his rollercoaster playlists.
And now, you can listen to him spin for eight hours straight if you like. All eight, one hour episodes of Strummer’s radio show are streaming free from PRX online radio. You can also download all eight episodes as podcasts, in two-parters, free on iTunes. And if it weren’t already your lucky day: a helpful gent named Zed has done the internet a favor and compiled playlists for each show, complete with links for every artist, from the most notable to most obscure. I would personally recommend taking a full day off and listening to every show straight through to the end. It may be the perfect way to honor the man who did his level best to bridge music and people from around the world with his working-class hero persona.
Josh Jones is a writer and musician. He recently finished a dissertation on land, literature, and labor.