John Sinclair is legendary as the man who guided the rock-and-revolution MC-5 to early fame, and as the political prisoner in the early days of the War on Drugs whose 1971 release from a 9-1/2-to-10-year sentence for possession of two joints was secured by high-profile supporters like John Lennon and Stevie Wonder.
But in subsequent years John Sinclair forged a whole new legend as a New Orleans-based preacher of the power of blues and jazz, "his love and knowledge of which form the basis of his wonderful spoken-word performances" (John Strausbaugh, New York Press) and popular award-winning music programs for WWOZ Radio.
Relentlessly criss-crossing the USA and western Europe to deliver his verses in front of a variety of high-energy musical ensembles, Sinclair is sort of a 21st-century American griot who's been called "The Last of the Beatnik Warrior Poets" (Mick Farren, Los Angeles Weekly) and "The Hardest-Working Poet in Show Business" (Ben Edmonds, San Francisco Chronicle).
Twenty-five years ago Sinclair began his epic work in verse centered on the music of the Mississippi Delta and then started setting the verse to the music of the blues to create a new and unique performance style that's perfectly showcased on his 2002 Okra-Tone CD, Fattening Frogs For Snakes: The Delta Sound, produced by R&B giant Andre "Mr. Rhythm" Williams. The album represents the first section of the book of the same name, which was published by the Surregional Press of New Orleans to coincide with the release of the CD. Sinclair has recently reissued his "underground classic," GUITAR ARMY, in a 35th anniversary edition from Feral House Press (2007) and is the subject of TWENTY TO LIFE: The Life & Times of John Sinclair, a feature-length film by Steve Gebhardt released on DVD by Music Video Distributors on October 30, 2007.
Sinclair published his first book of poetry, This Is Our Music, in 1965, followed by Fire Music: A Record (1966), Meditations: A Suite for John Coltrane (1967), We Just Change The Beat: Selected Poems (1988), Full Circle (1997), Fattening Frogs For Snakes: Delta Sound Suite (2002), i mean you: a book for penny (2004), Va Tutto Bene/It's All Good (2006), Full Moon Night (2007) and the forthcoming SONG OF PRAISE: Homage to John Coltrane and fly right: a monk suite (2008).
Sinclair's gonzo writings for the underground press between 1968-1972 were collected in Guitar Army: Street Writings/Prison Writings (1972). His poetry and essays have been widely anthologized, and a 1963 meditation on his early psychedelic experiences has recently been published as Reflections on PeyoteMind and After (2002).
Since his first CD, Full Moon Night (Total Energy Records), was released in 1995, Sinclair has recorded a succession of well-received CDs, including If I Could Be With You with Ed Moss & the Society Jazz Orchestra (1995); thelonious: a book of monk—volume one (1995) ; Full Circle (1996) , White Buffalo Prayer (2000) and Underground Issues (2000) with Wayne Kramer & the Blues Scholars; PeyoteMind with Monster Island (2002); Fattening Frogs For Snakes, Volume One: The Delta Sound (2002) and Volume Two: Country Blues (2004); It's All Good with Langfrans & Baas B (2004); criss cross with Mark Ritsema (2006) and No Money Down: John Sinclair's Greatest Hits, Volume One (2007)
Sinclair has also produced an important series of albums from his vast tape archives, including live sets by Sun Ra & His Arkestra, Detroit Blues Revue, Little Sonny, Roosevelt Sykes/Victoria Spivey, Big Walter Horton/King Biscuit Boys (all recorded at the historic Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival 1972-73), the Up, Mitch Ryder & Detroit, the Rationals and several CDs featuring the MC-5.
As a music journalist, Sinclair is widely recognized as one of America's leading authorities on blues and modern jazz. He was the editor of Blues Access magazine and has contributed features, interviews, reviews and columns to Playboy, Living Blues, AllMusic Guide, Big City Blues, OffBeat, Signal To Noise, BluesHound, Boston Phoenix and many other publications, and has contributed liner notes to CDs by Luther Allison, Art Ensemble of Chicago, James Cotton, Tab Benoit, Johnny Adams, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Re-Birth Brass Band, Irma Thomas, the Wild Magnolias and a host of others. He designed and taught courses in Blues History and History of Rock & Roll for the Music Department at Wayne State University and presently conducts courses in Poetry of the Blues at Common Ground on the Hill and the New Orleans School for the Imagination.
Sinclair has continued his principled struggle (begun in 1964) against the nation's draconian drug laws by means of his poetry, public performances, lectures, and writings for High Times and other publications. He was honored as one of the founders of the marijuana liberation movement when he was appointed High Priest of the 1998 Cannabis Cup festivities in Amsterdam, and he regularly appears at the MassCann Freedom Rally in Boston and pro-legalization rallies across the country.
John Sinclair was born October 2, 1941, in Flint, MI, where he discovered rhythm & blues on the radio as a grade schooler. His initial exposure to this music and the mesmerizing banter of R&B deejays like Frantic Ernie D and Jumpin' John R had a life-altering effect on Sinclair. At college in the early 1960s he became enamored of jazz, from bebop to the burgeoning avant-garde, and as a beginning poet and music writer came under the influence of LeRoi Jones, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley and Charles Olson, with whom he studied at the Berkeley Poetry Conference in 1965. At Wayne State University in Detroit, he did his graduate thesis in American Literature on William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch, began his long journalistic career as the Detroit correspondent for downbeat, founded the Detroit Artists' Workshop, published his first book of poetry, This Is Our Music, and began performing his verses onstage with Charles Moore & the Detroit Contemporary 5.