John Cooper ClarkeView in iTunes
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Punk poet John Cooper Clarke was born January 25, 1949 in Manchester, England; he first began performing his verse backed by a local folk group called the Ferrets, but in 1977 signed to the Rabid Records label to release the Martin Hannett-produced single "Psycle Sluts." With his rapid-fire verbal delivery and stinging social commentary, Clarke quickly emerged as the poet laureate of the punk movement, and he read his work as an opening act for groups including the Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks; an LP, Disguise in Love, followed on Epic in 1978. After supporting Elvis Costello & the Attractions on their legendary Armed Forces tour, Clarke scored a Top 40 hit with the single "Gimmix." A live disc, Walking Back to Happiness, appeared in 1979, and a year later he released a second studio effort, Snap, Crackle & Bop. While hugely popular as a stage performer, his records sold poorly, and 1982's Zip Style Method was his final release for Epic. While still maintaining a high visibility as a live act, Clarke appeared less and less frequently in the years to follow, spending the better part of the '80s battling an addiction to heroin. (He also spent several years romantically involved with former Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico, no stranger to drug problems herself.) By the following decade, Clarke had cleaned up his act, returning to the stage and contributing regularly to poetry journals. From 2000 onward, Clarke remained relevant through various collaborations and pop culture appearances, including a guest spot on BBC Two's Never Mind the Buzzcocks and a brief stint as a radio DJ for BBC Radio Six. He didn't release another full-length record until 2016, when he collaborated with ex-Stranglers member Hugh Cornwell for an album of covers titled This Time It's Personal. ~ Jason Ankeny