December may very well be a saddest time to be a music fan. You start the month off mourning the murder of John Lennon and close it out mourning the death of Joe Strummer. Gentlemen like this only come around once in a generation and their words, music and causes echo beyond their lives. The passing of these two men is like the passing of a family member, when they passed on, so did a piece of you.
Two musicians that changed the world we live in, with two different styles of rock 'n' roll, but both brought on the same meanings -- the messages of love, justice and a voice to the working class. Today their music is just important now as it was when it was first released. While they altered the world around them, Lennon and Stummer had much in common.
While the 40-year-old Lennon was shockingly gunned down in front of his apartment at the Dakota building in New York, the 50-year-old Strummer died suddenly of a heart condition at his home in Somerset, England, both devastatingly young and gone before their time.
Lennon was born in Liverpool in 1940 to a seaman father and stay at home mother, by the time Lennon was six he was living with his Aunt Mimi, after Aunt Mimi complained that John's mother, Julia, was unfit to raise her nephew. By Lennon's teens he discovered American rock 'n' roll, the music of Elvis and Fats Domino and formed the band The Quarrymen. After much buzz around Liverpool about the Quarrymen, classmate Paul McCartney approached Lennon to form a band. They would get together with fellow classmates and friends Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe and George Harrison; the band would become The Beatles.
Born in Turkey in 1952 as John Mellor, his family moved around from Cairo to Mexico City and then eventually to London. By his teens he fell in love with American folk music and rock 'n' roll. He founded the band the 101ers at art school in the early '70s and was known as Woody, as in Woody Guthrie. Then in 1975 he dropped the name Woody Mellor and adopted the name Joe Strummer, due to how he was playing his guitar. Then in 1976 Strummer was approached by Mick Jones to start a band, with some friends from the London underground scene, Paul Simonon and Terry Chimes and The Clash was born.
If you gaze at Strummer's look and Lennon's early look, both men look as if they could have been brothers. The slicked back greased hair, white T-shirt, leather jacket, biker boots, tight jeans and sunglasses, it is clear that Lennon had an effect on Strummer. The lives of both men paralleled even more as they were both married multiple times, took up political action and even acted on the side. The men spoke to an audience that not only was willing to listen to what they had to say but felt it had to. They tugged at the heartstrings of the working class, those who felt they were pushed aside and the regular "Joes" that worked to make a living. While their creative forces were adopted and embraced by all, it was the middle class and generations to come that would make them icons.
In our turbulent and uncertain times today, we still have the music of these two men. It is as if they predicted the future, but are also along with us to see what happens next.