Wednesday, 21 August 2013

How Joe Strummer Taught Me To Know My Rights.

Heroes, it's not a word I use lightly whatsoever. In the case of Joe Strummer, I would have to say he's a hero, an inspiration to me without reservation. Today marks Joe Strummer's 61st birthday. I'm going to try and attempt to articulate how much this man means to me, and what this day means to me. I only can hope I do him proud.

So... how has Joe Strummer changed my life. I think it'd be easier to ask how has he not changed it. The funny thing is, I've only been a fan for ten months. Though in those ten months, he's come to mean so much to me. That's definitely thanks to rather difficult personal circumstances. Although boy, has Joe Strummer helped me through those. It's a very comforting thing, having this constant in a set of ever-changing circumstances. I guess I have this little vision of myself, armed with my trusty Clash records ready to charge head on and face whatever life has in store next. When I listen to interviews... there's something very soothing about that voice. I can't describe it, but it grounds me. Joe epitomized the spirit of never giving up. I guess I just love the idea that I can face whatever may be next, but knowing I've got someone to remind me to never give up little more than a press of a play button away.

Another way he's definitely helped me is my ongoing battle to accept myself. And to be proud to be an individual. Northern Ireland has damn near destroyed itself in the past because some people can't accept alternate view points here. I guess it's made me wary of having my own brain at all growing up. Yet thanks to Joe and The Clash, I'm realizing that fear isn't right. Slowly but surely, they're teaching me that thinking for myself is going to pay dividends. Better to think for oneself than be "controlled in the body, controlled in the mind", to paraphrase Complete Control. Or as I like to say, better be a creep than a sheep. Yes sir, I've got my own opinions and they matter. Fuck anyone that says otherwise. When you're 19 and feel lost, hearing someone say that your opinions still matter is practically life affirming. At least, it is for me. Wow, maybe I'm not lacking in self confidence as much as I thought... thanks for that Joe.

Although above all - Joe has taught me to
stand out by all means, just remember to do it with a keen sense of humanitity. Yes, stand up for my rights, what I believe in. Love what I love, and don't be ashamed. Although always do it with a sense of tolerance. Don't just abuse others with alternate view points. Not only is that deeply hypocritical, but it also never gets anyone anywhere. I see that all the time here in Northern Ireland. That's something I think all of us can take away from Joe. His ability to rebel, yet posses a love and faith for humanity is truly inspiring. For a young girl in Northern Ireland, such behavior teaches me more about how to be a good member of the human race than any text book has or shall ever will.

Taking chances, seeing the goodness in people, standing up for what's right even when it goes against norms. Not doubting myself. Having the guts to question people and hold them to account. Not putting up with crap. Never conform. To sum it up, that's what The Clash and Joe has taught me. I hope I'm not painting Joe Strummer as a saint. He was far from that. Though he was a good man, he made mistakes just like the rest of us but he never pretended otherwise. Nor did he act like a flashy rockstar. He was a humble man, who always remembered his roots, and never saw himself above others. The audience were his friends if anything. If you asked me to sum up why I admire him so much then I'd simply say two words: he cared. He cared about his music, he cared about his fans, and he cared about the world around him. I often think I'm useless, but the idea that a man of his calibre might just have seen something good in me is all the motivation I need to keep going. And above all else, until his last breath he always had something relevant to say. People like Joe are never irrelevant.

It's true, it makes that early death all the sadder. A year ago if I wrote this I would have been far more mournful. I get days were I miss him terribly. One reason being, I'll never see him perform in any shape. Nor will he ever know the impact he's had on me. Sometimes, I wish that I could have the chance just to say "thank you Joe. It'd be nice to wake up one day, and hear an announcement of new music. It'll never happen of course, but the beat must go on. I'd like to think Joe would feel the same. Rather than mourn what I can't do, strive to do what I can do to the best ability that I can. That's what Joe was about, wasn't it? What Joe stood for didn't die when he died, I must remember this. He left behind brilliant music, in all his various guises. He lives on in those  records everyday.

Today, I'm actually celebrating. His heart condition could have killed him at any age - we were incredibly lucky to have him for those fifty years. Celebrate those wonderful memories The Clash and Joe have gave and shall continue to give us. Celebrate that we've got the lyrics of a wonderful man to guide us through the good and the bad. Yes, fifty is too young but he lived a fuller life than most. In his brief existence, he changed the lives of millions for the better. And he'll continue to do that, lest we forget. I'm proof his message can continue to inspire, even in the wake of his death. See what I'm getting at? Joe will never die, may we celebrate!

Remember that today marks the birth of someone whose influence is pretty much incalculable. He's changed  the lives of millions. And the world is a sweeter place for his existance, even ten years on. 61 years ago today a legend was born. And I repeat, he will never die.  Just by being a fan, it ensures that. His legacy will carry on, and if he inspires you to do something for the greater good of mankind, then you're shaping his legacy right there. Really I think today should be about thinking about how the world - and we as fans - would be different if one certain little baby called John Mellor never came into being on this day in 1952. I know my life would be worse off if that little baby was never born. So thank God for Joe Strummer.

Joe - I love you. I miss you. But most importantly - I thank you. Happy birthday inspiration <3

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