What ever happened to.... John Sinclair?

SoulfulDetroit.com FORUM: Archive - Beginning April 17, 2003: What ever happened to.... John Sinclair?
Top of pageBottom of page   By Jay ( on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 12:21 am:

What ever happened to.... John Sinclair?

THE stereotype Detroit hippie.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Sue ( on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 12:27 am:

He's playing March 22 at the Music Menu in Detroit, with the "Blues Scholars" and Jimmy McCarty (former Detroit Wheel and Rocket).
John lives down in New Orleans working a part time gig as a blues dj, selling off old MC5 tapes, making these CDs, etc. Spoken word with a blues/funk background.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph ( on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 09:41 am:

I remember when the so called " establishment " was out to get John. They finally did and he spent a little time in prison. do you remember what the " rap " was Sue?

Top of pageBottom of page   By STUBASS ( on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 09:46 am:


Top of pageBottom of page   By Jim G ( on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 09:47 am:

John was busted for marijuana posession (two joints), sentenced to ten years--"Ten for Two" as it was known.
He spent close to three years in Jackson, the maximum security Michigan prison in Jackson, MI.
There was a "Free John Sinclair" movement, John Lennon & Yoko, along with many other folks, performed.
Sue probably has other details--I can't recall when he was busted--1969?

Top of pageBottom of page   By Ralph ( on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 09:54 am:

Thanks for refreshng my memory guys. I remember now and it was really a bogus deal.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Livonia Ken ( on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 09:55 am:

Because of the John Lennon involvment, and his song on the Sometime in NYC album, the Free John Sinclair campaign was given play all over the world. It didn't exactly endear Lennon to the folks who wanted him deported, though. :) I was but a wee lad at the time, but in a roundabout way, that John Lennon song was responsible years later for the first time I heard about the MC5.


Top of pageBottom of page   By LTLFTC ( on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 11:15 am:

I believe the reason the sentence was so extreme was that it was Sinclair's third bust ( still a ridiculous sentence - legalize it).
There's a DVD ( bootleg ,no doubt) commonly available at record conventions of the "Free John Sinclair" rally at Ann Arbor's Crisler Arena. It has 3-song sets from Stevie Wonder , John & Yoko , and Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen ( actually, the musical highpoint) and a song apiece from Teegarden & VanWinkle, Bob Seger , Archie Shepp, Phil Ochs , Allen GInsberg and a bunch of speeches. Oh yeah , and about a minute of Deeetroit rockers , The Up ( 'Free John - Free John Now !!!)
A classic period piece

Steve K

Top of pageBottom of page   By Lynn Bruce ( on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 05:26 pm:

The worst part of his being sent to prison for smoking a plant that grows naturally all over is that during that time or shortly after, the fine in Ann Arbor,Michigan was FIVE DOLLARS for having a small amount in your possesion.

He was railroaded by the government for his political beliefs.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Fred ( on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 05:42 pm:

Sinclair was in Austin this past week for SXSW, sitting on a panels on music activism and protest and on health care issues. He was scheduled to perform at a club Wednesday night but never showed up although he subsequently did a short set on the stage set up at the trade show. He is actively involved in the New Orleans Musicians' Health Clinic and other community work. He's every bit as radical as he once was, just a little more quiet about it.

Top of pageBottom of page   By mc5rules ( on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - 09:09 pm:

Sinclair is a great pal of mine, and I've got a Saugatuck, Mich. chapter of his blues scholars group. We're in the process of putting together some dates for the end of May over here in West Michigan. I'll post the dates here when they're firm. Maybe some forum folks can make the trip over to the Lake Michigan side of the state...You can check out an (outdated) Website about our work here:

He's one talented cat, that's for sure.

Top of pageBottom of page   By mc5rules ( on Wednesday, March 19, 2003 - 09:25 am:

By the way, he's got a great radio show on Wednesdays on WWOZ out of New Orleans. You can listen to it at http://www.wwoz.org.

Top of pageBottom of page   By RJ Spangler ( on Thursday, March 20, 2003 - 03:12 pm:

John is one of my true mentors. He turned me on to so much jazz & blues, even Andre Williams. I have been a close friend of his since the early 1970's! He gave the Sun Messengers our first weekly gig at his Detroit Jazz Center. His poem "Peavine Special" is dedicated to my Sun Mess partner, Rick Steiger & myself. He has a new CD out on the Okra label -- git it! Much love to John.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Jim G ( on Thursday, March 20, 2003 - 05:35 pm:

RJ's right; John has helped many of us.
I first met him in the late 60s, spent a little time at the Trans-Love house (think that was the name) on Second and Forest, but at the time I didn't really know him well.
I recall him playing tenor sax with the MC5 on at least one occasion at the Grande Ballroom.
Truth be told, he's a far superior word-player!
We worked together at WDET for several years. John, Famous Coachman, Rudy Tucich (excellent jazz program host) and me. John called us the "Saturday Night Wrecking Crew".
John was the editor of 'City Arts Quarterly' in the late 1980s. He published my first piece of 'serious' Detroit music research ("Blue Sensation: The Todd Rhodes Story")in the Winter 1989 issue.
Actually, Lowell Boileau had a piece in the same edition.
Sinclair is a brilliant radio host and one of the most knowledgeable jazz & blues people I've ever met.
He's very much a 'down home' guy.
Detroit lost someone very special when John relocated to New Orleans.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Lynn Bruce ( on Thursday, March 20, 2003 - 06:16 pm:

Jim G. and R.J.,it's refreshing to read the nice things you both say about John Sinclair.I never got to know him,but listened to him on wdet.I,ve always had a lot of respect for him since the late sixty's.The crap he had to go thru and he still stood up for what he believed in,tells me that he's a man of honor and cojones grande.
Gotta get back to my dvd of "Buena Vista Social Club".The third time i,ve seen it. R.J.,I still can,t beleive the timbales players chops on his solos.The man is just plain GREAT!!!

Top of pageBottom of page   By Uptight! ( on Saturday, March 22, 2003 - 02:03 pm:

I had the honor of being a student in his History of Blues class he taught at Wayne State University in the early 1990s. The many recordings we heard came from John's vast record collection. It was great! His friendly personality made the class very enjoyable.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Sue ( on Saturday, March 22, 2003 - 04:02 pm:

There are some interesting arguments going on right now about the reunion of the "MC3," the surviving members of the Motor City Five, in London recently. Not that we need any more to argue about here (laugh) -- but I'm leaning toward the opinion that, with lead singer Rob Tyner and guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith dead, they shouldn't have tried it. Those two guys had their finger on some weird extraterrestrial pulse, and took the MC5 beyond a very cool garage thing into some other dimension ...band dynamics are so important, you just can't lose two such vital members and try to carry on.

The thing I love and miss about bands like the MC5 is they were deeply infused in the soul and R&B we all grew up with here. The current crop of white garage bands have grown up with a much less diverse musical diet, and it shows ...

Top of pageBottom of page   By Fred ( on Sunday, March 23, 2003 - 09:38 am:


Gotta go with a recent quote of Wayne Kramer's about the "reunion":

"We are not the MC5," announced founding MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer during a Thursday press conference at London's 100 Club. "This is not an MC5 show. That would be impossible. This is not an MC5 reunion. It's a celebration of the music of the MC5."

And who better to celebrate? Although the new Levi sponsoring arrangement doesn't seem quite "right" to me, I can't begrudge the survivors making a couple bucks this late in the game (and if Iggy can do it with cruise ship commercials, more power to all of them).

The MC5 have become an iconic band, and if the three survivors get out there and open ears to the music behind the reputation, the new audiences will be one step closer to the R&B and soul the group was so firmly grounded in. That isn't a bad thing.

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