The Clash's Joe Strummer dies. The punk pioneer died Sunday at age 50

By Brian Hiatt
Updated December 23, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Joe Strummer: Marco Dos Santos/IXO/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Joe Strummer, the snarling, Cockney-accented, bitingly intelligent lead singer for British punk-rock legends the Clash, died Sunday, according to the Associated Press. He was 50 years old. No official cause of death has been announced, but the BBC quoted a friend as saying Strummer — who was not known to be ill — died of a heart attack.

Strummer (born John Graham Mellor) and guitarist Mick Jones were the key creative forces behind the Clash — in addition to singing and writing many of the band’s songs, he played rhythm guitar on his trademark black Telecaster. The two formed the Clash in 1976, and released their self-titled first album the next year, quickly becoming one of punk’s most popular, politically charged and critically acclaimed bands (though it took longer in America than in Britain).

In 1983, after producing their masterpiece, 1979’s double album ”London Calling” and their commercial high point, 1982’s ”Combat Rock,” Strummer and bassist Joe Simonon booted Jones from the band. The Clash officially split three years later. In the ’90s Strummer returned with a new band, the Mescaleros, with whom he recorded two albums and toured.

Strummer and Jones appeared to have reconciled their longstanding differences in recent months. They reunited on stage in London earlier this year, leading many to expect them to perform together in March for the Clash’s scheduled induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Strummer leaves behind a wife, two daughters, and a stepdaughter.