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 the legendary John Sinclair


 Photo: Namvula Rennie



HAILED AS “The Hardest Working Poet in Show Business” (Ben Edmonds, San Francisco Chronicle) and “The Last of the Beatnik Warrior Poets” (Mick Farren, Los Angeles Weekly), John Sinclair is likewise a music journalist widely recognized as one of America’s leading authorities on blues and modern jazz. Based in Amsterdam since 2003, his weekly podcast of the John Sinclair Radio Show has served as the flagship for the internet station Radio Free Amsterdam since 2004. Sinclair also posts regular entries in his On The Road travelogue at www.johnsinclair.us.

His new Headpress book IT’S ALL GOOD: A John Sinclair Reader offers a collection of twenty two poems and twenty two writings selected by the author to celebrate his forty four years as a poet and writer. IT’S ALL GOOD includes poems from Sinclair’s epic works in verse always know: a book of monk and Fattening Frogs For Snakes: Delta Sound Suite along with writings on Jack Kerouac, Iggy Pop, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, John Lennon, Robert Lockwood Jr.,  Sun Ra, Dr. John, Willie King, Irma Thomas, and more.
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IT’S ALL GOOD also illuminates Sinclair’s legendary period as a cultural revolutionary, marijuana martyr and political prisoner,founder of the Detroit Artists Workshop, manager of the MC5, Chairman of the White Panther Party, producer of the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival, Editor-in-Chief of the Detroit Sun, Director of the Detroit Jazz Center, Editor of the City Arts Quarterly for the Detroit Council of the Arts, NEA Expansion Arts panelist, recording artist and record producer, and community arts broadcaster and program producer for WNRZ-FM, WCBN-FM, WDET-FM andWWOZ-FM.

An award winning disc jockey at WWOZ-FM in New Orleans, Sinclair was voted New Orleans’ Favorite Radio Personality for five years running (1999-2003) and won awards for his innovative roots music programming and broadcast productions, including the “live” broadcast of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the station’s first nationally syndicated programs.

Based in Amsterdam since 2003, Sinclair has appeared as a principal informant in several recent documentary films, including Punk/attitude and Sun Ra: Brother from Another Planet by Don Letts, Charles Olson: Polis Is Eyes byHenry Ferrini, Motor City’s Burning (BBC), MC5: A True Testimonial, and U.S. vs. John Lennon. His own documentary, 20 TO LIFE: The Life & Times of John Sinclair, a film by Steve Gebhardt, was released in 2007 by Music Video Distributors (MVD).

As a performer and bandleader with his multivarious ensemble, the Blues Scholars, and in collaboration with artists from Wayne Kramer, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, and Willie King to Archie Shepp, Daniel Carter, Sonny Fortune & Rashied Ali, John Sinclair appears at festivals and major events, nightclubs and coffeeshops, art galleries and community centers—from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Detroit International Jazz Festival to the Grand Opening of Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Mojo Station Festival in Rome and the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. Sinclair’s first book of poems, This Is Our Music, was published by the Detroit Artists Workshop Press in 1965. His collection Va Tutto Bene was published by Stampa Alternativa in American and Italian in 2006.

Sinclair’s epic blues work in verse, Fattening Frogs For Snakes: Delta Sound Suite, was published by Surregional Press in 2002 and will be issued as a box set including four CDs by Headpress in 2009. He has recently completed the first half of his epic jazz work in verse, always know: a book of monk, another forthcoming Headpress release.

Since his 1995 recording debut with the Blues Scholars, John Sinclair has released more than 15 CDs—including The Delta Sound, Country Blues and Don’t Start Me To Talking, the first three volumes of Fattening Frogs For Snakes; Full Circle and White Buffalo Prayer, featuring Wayne Kramer; criss cross, a duet performance with Rotterdam guitarist Mark Ritsema (2006); Tearing Down the Shrine of Truth & Beauty with the Pinkeye Orchestra of Detroit (2008); and the forthcoming Detroit Life with the Motor City Blues Scholars on No Cover Records.

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biography

Author, poet and activist John Sinclair (born October 2, 1941, in Flint, Michigan) mutated from small-town rock’n’roll fanatic and teenage disc jockey to cultural revolutionary, pioneer of marijuana activism, radical leader and political prisoner by the end of the 1960s.

In 1966-67 the jazz poet, downbeat correspondent, founder of the Detroit Artists Workshop and underground journalist joined the front ranks of the hippie revolution, managing the “avant-rock” MC5 and organizing countless free concerts in the parks, White Panther rallies and radical benefits. Working closely with lead singer and songwriter Rob Tyner and the members of the band, Sinclair brought the MC5 to local fame, national attention and a contract with Elektra Records.

The first MC5 album, recorded “live” at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in the fall of 1968, exploded onto the scene like a bomb through a courtroom window, accompanied by a declaration that Sinclair, the band members and selected compatriots had formed the White Panther Party to oppose the U.S. government and support the Black Panther Party.

Closely allied with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Ed Sanders and the Yippies, the White Panther Party spearheaded the short-lived “rock’n’roll revolution” of 1968-69, and Sinclair ‘s writings for the underground press both chronicled and analyzed the revolutionary events of the day in the light of the WPP’s focus on “Total Assault on the Culture” by any means necessary, including “Rock’n’Roll, Dope, & Fucking in the Streets.” Theory and practice were fiercely united in the White Panthers, the only American political party ever formed by a rock’n’roll band. The White Panthers not only preached revolution, they lived the revolution in communes and tightly knit conclaves of long-haired revolutionaries who lived, worked, fucked, smoked dope and dropped acid together while they carried out their radical political and cultural organizing and educational work among their fellow hippies.

Sinclair’s antagonistic rhetoric coupled with the incendiary performances of the MC5 inflamed ever-growing crowds of rebellious youth throughout Michigan and the Midwest. In 1970 the FBI referred to the White Panthers as “potentially the largest and most dangerous of revolutionary organizations in the United States.” By this time Sinclair had been railroaded off to prison on a 9½ to ten year sentence for giving away two joints to an undercover policewoman.

While he was in prison, Sinclair wrote the books Guitar Army: Street Writings/Prison Writings, a collection of his writings for the underground press between 1968-71, and Music & Politics, co-written with Robert Levin. His legal appeal challenged the constitutionality of Michigan’s draconian marijuana laws, and he continued to lead and direct theactivities of the White Panther Party from his cells in Marquette and Jackson Prison through its conversion to the Rainbow Peoples Party (RPP), his release from prison, the success of his appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court and the consequent overthrow of the marijuana laws.

Sinclair was released from Jackson Prison when the twenty nine month campaign to gain his freedom climaxed in the mammoth “John Sinclair Freedom Rally” at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan on December 10, 1971, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Stevie Wonder, Allen Ginsberg, Phil Ochs, Bobby Seale and others performed and spoke at the eight-hour long event in front of 15,000 people. Lennon wrote and performed his song, “John Sinclair,” later released on his Some Time in New York City album. Three days after the concert, the Michigan Supreme Court released Sinclair, and later overturned his conviction.

Following his release from prison,Sinclair got back into music management and promotion through the Rainbow MultiMedia Corporation, managed Mitch Ryder & Detroit and several Ann Arbor bands, and produced the historic Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festivals while serving as Chairman of the RPP (Rainbow People Party) and directing its political organizing work in Ann Arbor. He hosted popular radio shows on WNRZand WCBN, founded the People’s Ballroom, the Free Concerts in the Park program, and the Ann Arbor Tribal Council, and played a leading role in the success of the local Human Rights Party that resulted in the election of two City Council members and the institution of the legendary $5 fine for marijuana possessionin Ann Arbor.

In 1975, following the resignation of Spiro Agnew and Richard M. Nixon and the termination of the War in Vietnam, the mass movement dried up and America went back to business as usual. Sinclair disbanded the RPP and moved back to Detroit to return to life as a poet, journalist and urban cultural activist. For the next fifteen years he raised his family in Detroit and worked as editor of the Detroit Sun newspaper, founder and director of the Detroit Jazz Center, adjunct professor of popular music history at Wayne State University, artists manager and concert producer, WDET-FM program host, director of the City Arts Gallery for the Detroit Councilof the Arts and editor of City Arts Quarterly.

Sinclair moved to New Orleans in 1991 and joined the volunteer staff of WWOZ radio, winning OffBeat magazine’s reader’s poll as the city’s most popular DJ five years in a row (1999-2003). In 1992 he formed his band, the Blues Scholars (founded in Detroit ten years earlier), recorded his first CD in 1994 and began to tour the United States as a performance artist backed by jazz, blues and rock ensembles. He has collaborated with musicians from Little Milton and Jimbo Mathus to the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, Ras Moshe, the Kudzu Kings, Afrissippi, the Pinkeye Orchestra and the Dutch rappers Lange Frans & Baas B.

Sinclair has published several collections of his poetry along with his major work in verse, Fattening Frogs For Snakes: Delta Sound Suite, an investigation in verse of the Delta blues and the world that produced it. He has released more than fifteen CDs of his work with music & verse, including Volumes 1 and 2 of Fattening Frogs For Snakes: Delta Sound Suite, Full Circle and White Buffalo Prayer with Wayne Kramer.

Sinclair first visited Amsterdam in 1998 as High Priest of the Cannabis Cup and relocated to The Netherlands in the fall of 2003. One of the pioneers of podcasting, his weekly internet program, The John SinclairRadio Show, is the flagship of Radio Free Amsterdam.

Sinclair is now performing throughout Europe solo and in duet with guitarist Mark Ritsema, in Detroit with the Motor City Blues Scholars, and around the United States with a wide variety of collaborators. The poet was recently honored as the International recipient of the prestigious Targa Matteo Salvatore in Foggia, Italy. He’s appeared at the Festival Internazionale della Letteratura Resistente in Tuscany and been featured at major events and festivals in Rome, Milano, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Paris, Seville and Santiago, Chile.

At the 2006 Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam a potent prize-winning strain of Dutch marijuana was named in his honor. John Sinclair Seeds may be obtained from the John Sinclair Foundation, Singel 10,1013GA Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

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recordings

  • Detroit Life with the Motor City Blues Scholars (No Cover Records, 2009)

  • Tearing Down the Shrine of Truth & Beauty with the Pinkeye Orchestra (LocoGnossis Records, 2008)

  • Fattening Frogs For Snakes, Volume 3: Don’t Start Me To Talking (Big Chief/Electric Catfish Records, 2008)

  • crisscross with Mark Ritsema (Big Chief Records, 2006)

  • Fattening Frogs For Snakes, Volume 2: Country Blues (No Cover Records, 2005)

  • No Money Down: John Sinclair’s Greatest Hits, Volume 1 (Big Chief Records, 2004)

  • Peyote Mind with Monster Island (Book Beat, 2003)

  • Knock Out with Lange Frans & Baas B (420 Café, 2002)

  • Fattening Frogs For Snakes, Volume 1: The Delta Sound (Okra-ToneRecords, 2002)

  • It’s All Good with Fluxedo Junction (Fluxedo, 2000)

  • Underground Issues (Spy Boy Records, 2000)

  • White Buffalo Prayer with Wayne Kramer & the Blues Scholars (Spy Boy, 2000)

  • Full Circle with Wayne Kramer & the Blues Scholars (Alive Records, 1997)

  • thelonious:a book of monk—volume one (New Alliance Records, 1996)

  • If I Could Be With You—John Sinclair & Ed Moss with the Society Jazz Orchestra (Schoolkids Records,1996)

  • Full Moon Night—John Sinclair & His Blues Scholars (Total Energy Records, 1995)

  • “flyright”—a monk suite,with pianist Ed Moss (1991, unissued)


books & publications

  • IT’S ALL GOOD: A John Sinclair Reader (Headpress, 2008)

  • GUITAR ARMY (2nd Edition, Feral House/Process Books, 2007)

  • GUITAR ARMY (Italian Translation, Stampa Alternativa, 2007)

  • Va Tutto Bene / It’s All Good (Stampa Alternativa, 2006)

  • i mean you: a book for penny (Palomar Press, 2005)

  • Peyote Mind & After (Book Beat, 2003)

  • Fattening Frogs For Snakes: Delta Sound Suite (Surregional Press, 2002)

  • Full Circle (Minimal Press,1997)

  • “flyright”—a monk suite (1991, unpublished)

  • “We Just Change The Beat”: Selected Poems (Ridgeway Press, 1988)

  • thelonious: a book of monk—volume one (1985, unpublished)

  • GUITAR ARMY: Street Writings/Prison Writings, Douglas/World, 1972

  • Music & Politics (with Robert Levin), Jazz & Pop/World, 1971

  • Meditations: A Suite For John Coltrane (Artists Workshop Press, 1967)

  • The Poem For Warner Stringfellow (Artists Workshop Press, 1966)

  • FIRE MUSIC: a record (Artists Workshop Press, 1966)

  • This Is Our Music (Artists Workshop Press, 1965)




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