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- Posted on Apr 29th 2010 4:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
Malin never forgot Strummer's inscription, "Love It to Life," a slogan that, some two decades later, is the title of his fourth solo album, in stores now.
"I can't find the stub," Malin tells Spinner. "It would have been good on the artwork."
If Malin isn't particularly heartbroken about the lost keepsake, it's probably because he doesn't need a piece of paper to remember Strummer, who died in 2002. Thanks to a mutual friend, the rock photographer Bob Gruen, Malin got to know Strummer in the '90s. He found the iconic frontman warm, gregarious and happy to indulge curious Clash fans.
"The first night I met him we asked him every question we wanted to and drank until 6AM, and he answered them all," Malin remembers.
Having dropped out of high school, Malin counts Strummer as one of his "professors," placing him in a pantheon of personal heroes that includes Jello Biafra, Billy Bragg and Bob Dylan. Part of Strummer's appeal, he says, was his ability to expand listeners' horizons and expose them to new ideas.
"Strummer [got me started] looking up things," Malin says. "I didn't know anything about the Spanish War or what's going on with 'The Tao of Love and Sex' or Federico Lorca or reggae music or what's going on in Central America. I was living in Queens and watching 'M*A*S*H.' A billion things would lead to doing research, which you can now do online. Maybe it was a little more difficult, but it was more challenging -- exciting. And now he's a saint. He's dead."
Every saint needs a monument, and Strummer is immortalized in spray paint on the side of Niagra, a bar Malin owns in New York City's East Village.
"You watch every day, maybe 20 to 60 people take photos of that," Malin says of the mural. "They come from all over. He looks like Mr. Magoo on there. It was my sister's ex-husband that did the painting. He did a very good job, but it's very cartoonish, in a way."
Malin likens Strummer to fellow rebel guitar slinger Bob Marley, insisting that while both men had their flaws, they sang from the heart and spread positive messages.
"Whatever their daily lives were, their contradictions," he says, "whatever they were sending out was such a healing thing."