Artists’ Reactions to the Death of Wayne Kramer

"He was a guardian angel for many of us" : Tom Morello Slash, and others have publicly bid farewell to the founder of MC5.

Founder of MC5 in Detroit in 1963, a musical precursor to punk, activist, friend, mentor: the death of Wayne Kramer, announced yesterday evening, has personally and professionally impacted many colleagues who have expressed messages of affection and condolences on their social media accounts.

Tom Morello, among the guests on an upcoming MC5 album (Heavy Lifting, produced by Bob Ezrin), set to be released in the spring of this year, bid farewell to “brother Wayne” in this way:

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Brother Wayne Kramer was the best man I’ve ever known. He possessed a unique combination of deep wisdom and compassion, was charismatic and tenacious. His band, MC5, practically invented punk-rock music and was the only group not to back down, performing for protesters during the 1968 Democratic Convention. I’m pretty sure every album I’ve ever worked on had the MC5’s rawest and fastest track as a working title (for example, Sleep Now In The Fire),” reads the caption.

Morello continues: “Wayne faced trials related to drug use and time spent in prison (the Clash’s song Jail Guitar Doors was written about Wayne) and emerged as a transformed soul who continued to save countless lives through his tireless acts of service. He and his incredible wife Margaret founded @jailguitardoorsusa, which funds music programs in prisons as an effective method of rehabilitation. I played with Wayne in prison and saw him transform lives; it was simply incredible. Wayne had a tender heart but was also tough, he had earned his stripes in Detroit.”

“A couple of months ago (at 75 years old), Wayne kicked out an intruder threatening his family. And whenever there was a charity event, a union, or a human rights activist coming, Wayne always answered the call. ALWAYS. From our Frostbite And Freedom performances during the union uprising in Madison to Wayne Chainsaw Kramer wading through fire ants in the 9th district of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, reclaiming spaces for those affected. And then helping people quit drinking. And then former inmates find jobs. And still, at-risk youth start a career in music. Wayne has been a guardian angel for many of us. But above all, Wayne has been a great friend, a beautiful companion, and an older brother who helped me forgive myself for my mistakes, take risks with my music, and never be afraid to help those in need. The countless lives he touched, healed, helped, and saved will continue to carry forward his spirit and legacy. He was like a real-life Tom Joad. Every time and everywhere we play at full volume, Brother Wayne will be there with us. (If you want to honor Wayne, a donation to @jailguitardoorsusa is the right way).

Jack White also joins:

We have lost one of Detroit’s greatest, Brother Wayne Kramer of the MC5. The first guitar solo I ever learned was Wayne’s from the 5’s song Looking At You. He was definitely part of the solution, as he changed rock and roll and paved the way in Detroit for the rest of us. Thank you Brother Wayne for everything you have done and will continue to do forever.

And then Slash, also among the collaborators of the newly announced MC5 album:

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My life was changed forever for the better when I met this man. And I will miss him immeasurably. The embodiment of everything that is Rock ‘n Roll. And truly a great human being. Rest in peace Wayne, you will live in our hearts forever.”

William DuVall (Alice in Chains), another featured artist on the upcoming album, also joined the tribute:

I struggled all evening to find the right words for the passing of @waynekramerofficial. He was a childhood idol who became a friend. As far as rock ‘n’ roll bands go, you can’t get cooler than MC5. On stage, Brother Wayne on lead guitar was a force of nature – solos that melted faces and splits à la James Brown, all in the incredible turbo-charged Detroit beast machine. Just scroll through, and you’ll see: gonzo attitude. No compromise.”

Wayne led an epic life. From the MC5 to a period in federal prison to founding the organization @jailguitardoorsusa, it’s all in his autobiographical book, The Hard Stuff, which I highly recommend.”

I was fortunate to be the frontman for DKT-MC5 on two occasions: in London at the Royal Festival Hall in 2008 and a second time in 2011 in Cluses, France, sharing the stage with the Stooges. Having been a kid playing MC5 records for hours, staring at the photos on the cover, hoping to be in the same place, it was completely surreal to find myself at the center of the stage – surrounded by Dennis ‘Machine Gun’ Thompson, Michael Davis (RIP), and Brother Wayne Kramer – and to be able to shout, ‘Kick out the jams, Motherfucker!!’ Literally a dream come true.

Part of what makes the event so shocking is that Wayne was about to write another chapter in his life with a new MC5 album, Heavy Lifting (for which I was honored to sing a track), a new lineup, new tour dates – a whole campaign. I was looking forward to seeing it all unfold as a devoted fan.”

My heart is with his wife, @msaadikramer, and his son, Francis. My heart is also with Dennis Thompson, now the only surviving member of the original Five, and John Sinclair, their manager and mentor in the turbulent ’60s. I find comfort in the idea that Wayne has reunited with his brothers Rob Tyner, Fred Smith, and Michael Davis. The invigorating noise they unleashed will live forever. Kids born fifty years from now will one day immerse themselves in the freedom and power of this Witness. And they will truly remain ‘Alive with the MC5!‘”

Among the names publicly mourning Kramer, for now, we also find Alice Cooper (“Today we lost a long-time friend – and sometimes collaborator – Wayne Kramer of the MC5. RIP”).

Read also:

Interview: Wayne Kramer (MC5, solo)

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