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Redemption Song: The Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer [Kindle Edition]

Chris Salewicz
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The definitive biography of Joe Strummer, released with a new epilogue to mark the 60th anniversary of his birth.

Chris Salewicz was an intimate friend of Strummer’s for over 25 years. Drawing on more than 300 interviews with family, friends and associates, this is a comprehensive, compelling insight into the man behind The Clash.

The Clash was the most influential band of its generation, producing punk anthems including ‘London Calling’, ‘White Riot’ and ‘Tommy Gun’. For countless fans across the world, they are the ultimate iconic mainstays of their generation.

With his talent, extreme good looks and laid-back attitude Joe Strummer was the driving force behind the band: he was the archetypal punk frontman. His untimely death in December 2002 shook the world to its core.

Written with full approval and co-operation of relatives, companions and fellow musicians, this is the ultimate account of one of British rock & roll’s most fascinating idols: his life, his work and his immeasurable impact on the world.

Redemption Song is the best and last word on the subject.

Product Description


Salewicz knew and loved his subject well, and that shows on every page.'
The Sunday Times

Salewicz depicts Strummer as a difficult man and yet, as the title of this inspiring and uplifting book promises, there is redemption at the last.'
Daily Telegraph

'Chris Salewicz's hugely, expansive biography, Redemption Song, is all the more commendable for refusing to fawn; tackling the frontman's frustrating contradictions and multiple flaws.' 'Drawing on more than 300 interviews with family, friends and associates, it's as exhausting and enthralling as Strummer himself.'

'A great read. Brutally frank and full of insights.'

‘…one of the most comprehensive music biographies around.’ The Irish Herald

‘…a riveting read that will keep you gripped to the end.’ The Daily Mirror

‘Chris Salewicz is immensely insightful on the life and works of Strummer.’ The Herald

‘A great read.’ Nuts

‘Salewicz catalogues Strummer’s triumph through insight and unfettered access from the very start, but also finds space to identify Strummer’s weaknesses, fears and insecurities, offering the most detailed broad picture of his subject yet published.’ Record Collector

‘conjures up the excitement of the punk era’
The Sunday Telegraph Seven Magazine

From the Inside Flap

Joe Strummer was the personification of street cool and outlaw
integrity. People loved and were touched by Joe, but why did he stir them
so? The original Clash had split up at the height of their powers, and so
no lengthy Rolling Stones-like decline was ever publicly played out: his
extraordinary stage performances and the wit and wisdom of his lyrics
remained vivid. And there was also always a sadness of sensibility about
Joe, a sense that he was slightly lost in the world in which he found
himself, a feeling with which his audience could empathise. Although
politicised by his life as a squatter, it was his colossal humanity that
struck such a cord in the collective unconscious. He was an ordinary Joe.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I've not long finished this biography and generally, I'm very impressed.

I find it sad that a few on here have dismissed the book because they feel Salewicz is a hanger-on or a name-dropper. Chris actually knew Joe very well and they were good friends. In that respect, he has every right to recount a few personal encounters with the man within this book. In any repsect, there are very long sections of this book where the author does not mention his own involvement whatsoever, so I really do feel that those reviews are overplaying that aspect completely.

To view objectively, then, you have to take your hat off to the author. To piece together in painstaking fashion someone else's life from such a wide variety of sources is no mean feat.

What we end up with is an extremely candid, thorough and very enjoyable biography. The good and bad of Joe is painted by all those that knew him in here. It is strikingly honest and very warts-and-all. There is also content drawn from a huge collection of print and audio interviews and live shows, both well-known and obscure. Any fan of Joe or the Clash will be engrossed.

If I had to make any criticism at all it would be that perhaps there is too much coverage of very small or insiginifcant occurrences. I did begin to tire of receiving glimpses into Damian Hirst's self-absorbed life. But I'm nit-picking now.

This book is the result of a labour of love and it shows. With unique access to so many players in Joe's life, as well as original interviews with many of these people that readers wouldn't have read before, this stands head and shoulders above so many other biographies you come across these days.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Desolation Angel 30 Dec. 2006
One of the sentiments which appears throughout the book is that Joe changed people's lives but was unaware of just how much. I would count myself as one of those he made an impact on as a 14 year old hero worshipping him and the group, right up to the present day when the music and lyrics, especially the lyrics, mean as much as they always did.

The Clash opened me up to all manner of things through their songs including politics, history, literature and the wider world. Joe would mention Jack Kerouac or Neal Cassidy in an interview or name check Federico Lorca in the lyrics and I'd go and find out more about them.

We need heroes in our lives and the group were mine, Joe in particular but where this books succeeds so well is in humanising Joe Strummer as a real life, flesh and blood man saving him from the myth. Now in some ways that's quite a hard thing to take. Here's me in my 40s and still naive enough to subscribe to the myth almost as wholeheartedly as in the past and then I find out that not only is he full of the contradictions which I was aware of but he fell into the traps of sex and drugs to go with his rock and roll to a degree which almost took my breath away compared to what I thought The Clash subscribed to. Without the benefit of the book I might well have simply accused him of hypocrisy, of failing to live up to what I expected of him but what actually emerges is a man haunted by pain and self doubt, a man who took a world view but could not see the truth in front of him and destroyed the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World.

How do you come back from that?
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89 of 99 people found the following review helpful
By Arctic
Joe Strummer's mother - a statement from her family

This book has depicted Anna Mackenzie, Joe's mother, as an alcoholic and a depressive. Those of us who knew her as a sister or an aunt want to challenge this portrayal. She was a quiet, dignified and private person who was also to us unfailingly warm, welcoming, kind and tolerant.

She was the second child of nine, born on a croft and used to hard work from an early age. She became a nurse which in the 1930s was a job even more physically demanding than it is today. We are mystified by the references to her house as "shabby" and "run down". Neither she nor Joe's father Ron was interested in acquiring or flaunting household possessions. Nor did they sit about as if "they had been used to servants": Anna cooked and looked after the house while Ron was in charge of the garden and the DIY repairs and maintenance.

When we visited her in Warlingham or when she was at home in Bonar Bridge, there was no sign of her drinking excessively. She was a social drinker who had one or two gins in an evening - a habit which she probably picked up in India. She recalled with astonishment and disapproval the large amounts of drinking by others that she had observed in the diplomatic communities. At home, she'd usually go to bed early, leaving her nephews and nieces talking with Ron. He wasn't an alcoholic either though he drank more than she did. Nobody in Anna's family that we've spoken to can understand why she's been portrayed in this way. There's no drinking culture among the Mackenzie women.

Like most people, Anna had to cope with deaths in her family. Her older brother Donald died when she had just turned 17 and her older son David killed himself.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A good and interesting read
Published 1 month ago by Wendy
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth checking out
Joe Strummer was, in many ways, just your average rock'n'roll hero, doing drugs, sleeping with myriad girls, lurching between gigs. Read more
Published 2 months ago by therealus
4.0 out of 5 stars it was an excellent read. The detail is chronological to the extreme...
whilst slightly and immediately surprised at the size of the book, it was an excellent read. The detail is chronological to the extreme in parts but an excellent biography of a... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Steve Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very interesting
Published 4 months ago by Paul Barrett 2
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - great guy On the downside however the ...
Great book - great guy
On the downside however the delivery was late; the cover was torn and damaged
Published 5 months ago by GQ
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fast and great!
Published 7 months ago by pietro di leva
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as it gets
Arguably the best rock bio I’ve ever read – a truly great read.

Initially it seems that there might be too much detail…going back through several generations of Joe’s... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Andrew GC Davison
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive
Just finished this and I'm immensely impressed.
You get the good and the bad of Joe - and the vast majority is good. Read more
Published 16 months ago by J. Myles
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read on the only punk war lord
Read this book on holiday and it is a great in depth stor on the main man of punk from squats to his house where he sadly passed away in 2002 . Read more
Published 21 months ago by colin cross
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
I ordered this for my husband's anniversary. He is a great Joe Strummer fan. He was very happy with it.
Published on 3 Jan. 2013 by Amanda Nairn
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