Keith Jackson stops short of officially canonizing Joe Strummer — but seriously, just short of it.
"I don't know how to describe the guy's personality," Jackson says of the frontman of The Clash, actor, and leader of global-punk outfit The Mescaleros. "I don't want to say he was saint-like, but . . ."
He goes on to laud the punk legend. "There was no pretentiousness with Joe, none of that rock star demigod bullshit." Jackson's own street rock band, The Glass Heroes, clearly learned the right lessons from Strummer musically, emphasizing straight-ahead rock 'n' roll that isn't afraid to incorporate disparate stylistic influences, but Strummer's influence goes far beyond that, Jackson says. He was struck by Strummer's grace and style, becoming a lifelong fan after meeting The Clash in Detroit in the late '70s.
"He was a huge influence on me . . . He was my Bob Dylan. But he was an influence on a lot of people. Not just the punk rock world, but as a humanitarian. Like a lot of people, he re-created himself a few times over, but I think he was happy with himself at the end."
Jackson has annually honored Strummer each December since he died of a congenital heart condition on December, 22, 2002. He's planning on doing it one more time — stacking a lineup with his own band, as well as The Plainfield Butchers, Domino UK, The Sex, Button Struggler, and Scorpion vs. Tarantula, on Saturday, December 22, at the George & Dragon English Pub.
"This'll be the 11th show I've done for him, but it's the 10th anniversary of his death," Jackson explains. "Right after he died, I had a show, then I had another one. But it's the 10th anniversary of his death, so we're calling it the 10th annual. This is the last one . . . I said I'd do it 10 years, and this the last one."
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In recognition of Strummer's humanitarian aims, Jackson donates the profits from the event to various organizations that were near Strummer's heart. "After his death, I thought, 'What better way to pay tribute to the man?' This year, Jackson plans on donating the proceeds to the Save the American Honey Bees foundation. "He was [concerned about] the dying of the honeybees in North America," Jackson explains, noting that in recent years, he's also donated proceeds to the Strummerville Foundation for New Music.
"There was just something about him," Jackson says. "A good example is, we were hanging out at the Cajun House [in 2001]. There were a bunch of people backstage, and he goes, 'Eh, let's get the fuck out of here.' [Laughs] I said, 'Let's go.' So the guys in the band and a couple of our friends grabbed Joe by the arm and went down to Acme Roadhouse. Acme was just closing, and we were walking fast to make last call, we gotta hoof this. We're all walking down the street, and he goes, 'You know, Bob Marley once told me, if you can't keep stride with a man he's not worth talking to, right?'"
Later, after the waitress mistook Strummer for Jackson's older brother, Jackson asked him about that Bob Marley quote, only to receive a sly grin from Strummer.
"I said, 'You never fucking walked anywhere with Bob Marley,' did you?" Jackson laughs. "He goes, 'No,' and just starts laughing. He was that kind of guy, just real funny."