John Sinclair, activist and manager of the MC5, has passed away

An Icon of American Counterculture

John Sinclair died due to heart failure. An icon of American counterculture, he was a poet, and one of the most fervent advocates for the legalization of cannabis, as well as the manager of the MC5. He was 82 years old.

Born in Flint, Michigan, the city where General Motors was founded and which has been portrayed, among others, by the documentarian Michael Moore, Sinclair was one of the founders of the White Panther Party, the equivalent of the African American Black Panthers.

He was an activist, but also a music enthusiast to the point of becoming, in the 1960s, the manager of the MC5 from Detroit, with whom he shared political ideas. He stood by their side until 1969.

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In that same year, he was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison for being caught for the third time in possession of marijuana (only two joints). He became the focus of a liberation campaign that also involved John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The two participated in a famous protest-concert in 1971 in Ann Arbor. Lennon then dedicated the song “John Sinclair” to him, from his most politicized album, “Some Time in New York City” from 1972: “They gave him ten for two,” sang Lennon, meaning “they gave him ten years for two joints.”

“He’s incredibly persuasive and charismatic,” said Wayne Kramer of the MC5, who died in early February. “For our group, he represented a father figure. I had just left home, and there was this older guy who could explain to me the things of the world that I didn’t understand. He had a significant effect on all of us spiritually and philosophically.”


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