Before the Clash, he played in the Vultures and The 101ers. The Clash were the most musically diverse and overtly political of the original English punk bands. Strummer was a controversial figure who became involved with the left-wing Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism campaigns. He later also gave his support to the Rock Against the Rich series of concerts organised by anarchist organisation Class War. The Clash's London Calling album was voted best album of the 1980s by Rolling Stone magazine.
After the disbanding of the Clash, he acted in a few movies, recorded movie soundtracks (notably "Love Kills" for the film Sid and Nancy) and experimented with different backing bands with limited success. Finally, in the mid- to late-1990s, Strummer gathered top-flight musicians into a backing band he called The Mescaleros. Strummer signed with the Californian punk label Hellcat Records, and issued a stunning album co-written with Anthony Genn, called Rock Art and the X-Ray Style. A tour of England and North America soon followed; sets included several Clash-fan favourites.
Following the release of Global A Go-Go, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros mounted a 21-date tour of North America, Britain, and Ireland. Once again, these concerts featured Clash material ("London Calling", "Rudie Can't Fail"), as well as classic covers of reggae hits ("The Harder They Come", "A Message To You, Rudie") and regularly closed the show with a nod to the late Joey Ramone by playing The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop".
They also toured Australia in 2000 with the Big Day Out concert series, to a very warm reception.
Shortly before his death Joe Strummer co-wrote a song, "48864", for Nelson Mandela as part of a campaign against AIDS in Africa, and had been scheduled to play at Mandela's SOS fundraising concert in February 2003 on Robben Island.
Strummer died on December 22, 2002 in his home in Somerset, England, the victim of a heart attack. His untimely death at age 50 shocked and saddened a generation of fans to whom he had been an inspirational figure.
At the time of his death Strummer was working on another album, which was released posthumously in October 2003 under the title Streetcore.
At the Grammy Awards in February 2003, London Calling was performed by Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Steven van Zandt, Dave Grohl, Pete Thomas and Tony Kanal in tribute to Strummer.
In March 2003, The Clash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In addition to his music, Strummer was instrumental in setting up Future Forests, an organisation dedicated to planting trees in various parts of the world in order to combat global warming. Strummer was the first artist to make the recording, pressing and distribution of his records carbon neutral through the planting of trees. Many other artists such as Foo Fighters Coldplay and Pink Floyd have followed suit and fans can visit the Future Forests website to buy trees to be planted in their favourite artists' forest.
Joe Strummer solo discography (see also Clash discography)