This post, like the above, is a chance to celebrate the past achievements and still ongoing activities of one of the most important figures of the 60s Underground in the US – Mr John Sinclair. Respect.
If you want to get the heads-up on Sinclair’s life and times, check Wikipedia but also get hold of this DVD – essential viewing.
This really is a labour of love. Directed by Steve Gebhardt, edited by Tom Hayes and produced with JS’s full cooperation, this fab 87-min film was begun in 1991 and completed in 2007. Replete with original interviews and fabulous footage of live shows, it brilliantly captures John’s extraordinary life and the full range of his considerable achievements.
The following from the film’s official website: www.20tolife.com
John Sinclair is a real American character. Poet, performing artist and bandleader, music journalist, radio broadcaster, record producer, educator and archivist, Sinclair first emerged out of his small-town Michigan background to forge a legendary course through the 1960s as a cultural activist, founder of the Detroit Artists Workshop, manager of the MC-5, and Chairman of the White Panther Party.
An early victim of the War on Drugs who faced 20 years to life in prison for giving two joints to an undercover policewoman, Sinclair mounted an historic challenge to the constitutionality of Michigan’s marijuana laws and served 29 months of a 9-1/2-to-10-year sentence before his legal victory on appeal changed the law for good.
The long campaign waged by Sinclair and his supporters in the courts, the legislature, the media and the streets culminated in a massive John Sinclair Freedom Rally headlined by John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Stevie Wonder, Bob Seger, Phil Ochs, Allen Ginsberg and Bobby Seale that resulted in Sinclair’s release from prison on December 13, 1971—just three days after the event.
For the next 10 years Sinclair persevered as a community organizer and cultural activist, producing the legendary Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festivals, writing for the underground press, founding the Detroit Jazz Center, developing and directing a wide range of projects for community arts organizations.
The film also includes footage of his radio work in New Orleans and footage from Amsterdam, which is now his home base.
‘It’s All Good: A John Sinclair Reader’ [HeadPress] is a fantastic anthology of poems, articles, interviews and memoirs. ‘Detroit Life’ is one of many CDs available of his poetic performances with a variety of musicians, in this case the Motor City Blues Scholars'.
This is one of my favourite pics – the night I first met John (7th August 2009) with my old Worthing mate Ian Grant (right) in the garden of the Con Club in Lewes, on a memorable night when John performed with The Dirty Strangers. Full story of the night in this Previous Post
[Left: Cover of CB of MC5’s live appearance at Phun City. Available from Amazon and various other outlets.]
We had known about John Sinclair since were teenagers, when we were running the local Arts Lab – the Worthing Workshop. A whole crowd of us lived in the woods for a week, helping set up the site and stage for the now-legendary 1970 Phun City festival which Mick Farren and IT were organising (it all connects). That is where we saw the first ever live performance in Britain by the MC5 – a transformational experience. [More details of Phun City, with original photos and memorabilia in Previous Post: ARCHIVE/ROCK FESTIVALS 1969-1972 ]
FROM THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE
Clipping from the Berkely Barb [28th April 1972]
Sample copy sent to Frendz in London, of Fifth Estate, [Sept 5-11 1974] the Detroit underground/ anarchist newspaper which is still being published. John Sinclair was the paper’s first Music Editor in the mid-1960s.
Now published as ‘an anti-authoritarian magazine of ideas and action’ www.fifthestate.org