Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Redemption Song

Redemption Song

The Ballad of Joe Strummer

Chris Salewicz

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

With exclusive access to Strummer's friends, relatives, and fellow musicians, music journalist Chris Salewicz penetrates the soul of an rock 'n roll icon.

The Clash was--and still is--one of the most important groups of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Indebted to rockabilly, reggae, Memphis soul, cowboy justice, and '60s protest, the overtly political band railed against war, racism, and a dead-end economy, and in the process imparted a conscience to punk. Their eponymous first record and London Calling still rank in Rolling Stone's top-ten best albums of all time, and in 2003 they were officially inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Joe Strummer was the Clash's front man, a rock-and-roll hero seen by many as the personification of outlaw integrity and street cool. The political heart of the Clash, Strummer synthesized gritty toughness and poetic sensitivity in a manner that still resonates with listeners, and his untimely death in December 2002 shook the world, further solidifying his iconic status.

Salewicz was a friend to Strummer for close to three decades and has covered the Clash's career and the entire punk movement from its inception. He uses his vantage point to write Redemption Song, the definitive biography of Strummer, charting his enormous worldwide success, his bleak years in the wilderness after the Clash's bitter breakup, and his triumphant return to stardom at the end of his life.

Salewicz argues for Strummer's place in a long line of protest singers that includes Woody Guthrie, John Lennon, and Bob Marley, and examines by turns Strummer's and punk's ongoing cultural influence.


Chapter One
Straight to Heaven
This is how I heard about Joe's death: Don Letts, the Rastafarian film director who had made all the Clash videos, called me at around 9:30 on the evening of December 22, 2002.
"I've got to tell you,...


Praise for Redemption Song

“God might be in the details, but as Redemption Song so vividly reveals, so is Joe Strummer, in all his flawed glory. As it turns out, the man who achieved the seemingly impossible -- he made punk rock noble -- was all too human. But as a wise man once said, 'The one who always strives can be redeemed.' That is the message of this remarkable book.” —Michael Azerrad, author of Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana and Our Band Could Be Your Life

“Joe Strummer was one of the most electrifying rock stars of all time. Chris Salewicz's in-depth biography is a labor of love that definitively captures the man's humanity -- his complex, volatile and vulnerable soul.” —Jon Savage, author of England’s Dreaming

“REDEMPTION SONG is the epic tale of rock & roll's unlikely, complicated rebel hero. Chris Salewicz was front and center for Joe Strummer's whole wild ride -- and he's got the scars and bruises to prove it.” —Alan Light, music journalist for Rolling Stone and The New York Times, and former editor-in-chief of Spin and Vibe

"Engrossing." -- BEN GILL, Mother Jones

"Passionate and detailed." -- ROBERT CHRISTGAU, The New York Times Book Review

"[An] epic, meticulously researched . . . biography." -- ZAC CRAIN, Esquire

"The most complete and honest account of Strummer's professional and personal life." —RON WYNN, The Nashville City Paper

"There was a time when The Clash . . . was (quite properly) billed as ‘The Only Band That Matters.' [This] biography about lead singer Joe Strummer explains why . . . Salewicz, a longtime Strummer associate and chronicler of the punk scene, quickly settles into his groove and stays there, his words as vivid as the lyrics to ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais' or ‘London Calling.' Details abound, providing fresh glimpses into the Strummer persona, along with those that preceded it . . . [A] compelling tale of Strummer's too-short life." -- LARRY MCSHANE, Associated Press

"Will likely go down as the definitive bio of Strummer and the Clash." -- JEFF TAMARKIN, Harp

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Chris Salewicz

Chris Salewicz's writing on music and popular culture has appeared in publications around the globe, including New Musical Express and The Sunday Times (London). He is the author of more than a dozen books.

Chris Salewicz


From the Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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