The Detroit beat poet John Sinclair has been apart of the Detroit underground scene ever since it was old enough to be called that. Activist, former manager of proto-punk outfit the MC5, and founder of the White Panthers, John Sinclair’s activism and connection to the underground music world is legendary.

Sinclair was involved in the reorganization of the Detroit underground publication titled the Fifth Estate, which is still in print today, making it one of the longest running alternative periodicals in U.S. history. Being one of the founding members of the White Panthers, a militantly anti-racist social group helping to aid the Black Panthers in their social struggle, Sinclair became the manager of the MC5 and bestowed his beliefs upon them.

The MC5 became the house band at the Grand Ballroom and what became known as “Kick out the Jams” parties had begun. The Five was the only band to play outside the Democtratic National Convention in 1968 until the police broke up the anti-war rally calling it a riot. The Five and Sinclair eventually split ways as the band found his politics too heavy handed, but they remain friends to this day and Sinclair has spoken at their recent reunion tours.

Sinclair underwent a famously publicized arrest after giving two joints to an undercover narcotics officer. The event led to Abbie Hoffman appearing on stage at Woodstock 1969 during the Who’s set as well as a “Free John Now” rally. Sinclair’s arrest and release led to the annual Hash Bash in Ann Arbor as well as the city’s decriminalization of the substance. Sinclair has continued to have his poetry featured, and has read on stage with the Black Crowes, has recently come out with an album of his poetry based in Detroit, and has read all over London.

Here is an interview with Sinclair from Motor City Rocks, or read the Interview with John Sinclair from

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