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22.12.12

Joe Strummer, My Hero - 10 Years Gone.

Every person you come across most likely has a hero/ heroine, someone they look up and aspire to be like. One person who had such affect on me, was Joe Strummer during my early teenage years. My introduction to punk music and The Clash in particular, came from an old friend around the ages of 13/ 14. I was fed-up with life at the time; going through your average angsty teenage phase. I was discovering bands like the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Smiths.. and of course, The Clash. I remember listening to them on repeat, over and over for days on end after my first proper listen. I was utterly obsessed, in every sense of the word. Each and every song made an impact on me, and I'd switch between which one was my favourite time and time again. Over the years, I became interested in the story behind The Clash, and Joe Strummer himself. I bought piles of books on the band and Joe, read up on every article about them, watched every interview and so on. I used to get so upset thinking about the fact that I'd never be able to see the band live, especially Joe.
Joe Strummer was one of the most incredible human beings to have ever lived, and I think himself (and The Clash) are hugely underrated these days. Day in and day out I see Top __ Music of X and Y lists on websites and magazines - and there's rarely a mention of The Clash or Joe!? What people don't realise is, without The Clash, the majority of  bands within the punk/ rock region from the last 20 or so years wouldn't exist at all. Joe, Mick, Paul and Topper inspired millions - they still do today. Joe was one of the most interesting, influential, intelligent and kind human beings. He cared about people, human rights and what was going on in the world around him. He wasn't afraid to say what he thought, he wasn't afraid to express his opinions and he wasn't one to back down on standing up for what he believed in - some might say those three things make up the punk potion, so to speak; I believe so. Punk music of the 70s and 80s changed me and helped me develop into the person I am today. I'm not afraid to say what I think, I stand up for myself and I like to think I have a genuine interest in the world and people around me. I went through quite a tough teenage life; music, in particular The Clash, saved me. The strength and power you gain from Joe and Mick's lyrics is like nothing else on earth. Joe's music of course expands from The Clash; The 101ers (his first band), The Mescaleros, The Pogues etc. He was a complete musical genius, and was born to make a difference in the world. 
The Future is Unwritten is a fantastic documentary showcasing and discussing Joe's life, from beginning to end (you can watch it on Youtube here). I remember crying the whole way through for the first time watching it - not out of sadness, but just from general emotions. Even the slightest mention of Joe makes me well up, it's difficult to express how much he means to me. He's in every sense of the word, my hero. I don't believe in God, but I believe in Joe. For the last 4/5 years anytime I lose something or if I'm stuck in a rut, I always pray to Joe to help and guide me. During my Leaving Certificate examinations, I brought my Joe Strummer key-ring in with me everyday. I feel like Joe's my guardian angel almost; it sounds cheesy, but I like to think he looks down on his fans and helps and encourages them - wherever he is.
One of the greatest days of my life was in 2010; I was shopping in town for clothes and other irrelevant bits and bobs. Like a scene out of a movie, I was walking through Merchants Arch and out of the corner of my eye I spotted something. In the window of a tiny record shop, was an original London Calling vinyl on display. I nearly burst into tears - the guy in the shop probably thought I was mad! I remember clutching on to the record for dear life travelling home after buying it, I felt like I was holding  on to a piece of history. It's currently on display on a shelf in my room, it's one of the most cherished items I own. It's in perfect nick, and has the old labels on the cover from 1970s. It's exquisite. 
In March, I went to see the Justice Tonight tour, and it was literally one of the greatest nights of my life. I saw Mick Jones perform live, right in front of me before my eyes. I never thought I'd see the day where I saw a Clash member in person; it was an extremely surreal experience. After the show I even met Don Letts - I was speechless, of course. I felt close to Joe that night, being surrounded by other Clash fans, singing along to each song. Oh, what I would give to go back and see The Clash live in the 70s though.
Joe Strummer, John Mellor, Woody - whatever you want to call him, is one of the reasons I'm alive today. As I previously said, The Clash got me through an extremely dark period of my life and to this day, their music and message gives me strength. I'm planning on getting a tattoo inspired by Joe this month - I'm 90% sure of what I'm getting done, so hopefully it'll be done soon after Christmas. I can't wait! I'm glad I discovered The Clash so young, I'm glad I'll have their music to guide me through life until the end. I can't wait to tell my kids, my grandkids etc about Joe. I'm the person I am today because of that band and that man. Today (22nd December) marks Joe's 10 year anniversary - he passed away suddenly, at the young age of 50. Another musical legend to leave this planet far too soon; it almost seems like a curse. I feel like I could on for hours about how much Joe means to me, but it'd just bore half of you to death. I'm feeling incredibly emotional writing this, and it is quite difficult to put all of my feelings into words. Also, this probably isn't especially well-written but I felt it was important to talk about my hero - especially today. Thank you Joe for your message, your support and your belief in people - you're in my heart, forever and always.