–John Sinclair. JSF: Mission Statement.
The mission of the John Sinclair Foundation is to support the artistic and cultural projects of John Sinclair presently and in perpetuity, to insure the preservation and proper presentation of his creative works, to preserve them for posterity, and to make them available to the public in perpetuity. In the course of my long and productive life as a poet, writer, editor, performer, bandleader, broadcaster, cultural and political activist, artists’ manager, and record, concert and broadcast producer I have a created a massive body of work that spans many genres and decades and exists now only in widely scattered form.
For more than 50 years John Sinclair has cut a wide swath as a prolific cultural worker, an innovative poet who sets his verse to music from the blues and jazz tradition, a dynamic performer and bandleader who has collaborated with scores of outstanding musicians in performance and recording, a leading music journalist and writer of album liner notes, acclaimed editor, an award-winning radio broadcaster and record producer, an iconoclastic educator and lecturer, a passionate crusader against the War in Vietnam and the War on Drugs, and a living testimonial to the power of people to make fundamental changes in the conditions of their lives and the world around them. Sinclair founded and directed the Detroit Artists Workshop, managed the MC-5, formed and chaired the White Panther Party, produced the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festivals, directed the Detroit Jazz Center, taught Blues History at Wayne State University, edited City Arts Quarterly for the Detroit Council of the Arts, produced Piano Night at Tipitina’s for the Professor Longhair Foundation and the “live” broadcast of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for WWOZ-FM. He spent three years in prison for marijuana offenses, overthrew the Michigan marijuana laws, helped institute Ann Arbor’s historic $5 fine for possession of weed, founded the Ann Arbor Hash Bash and served as High Priest of the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. Sinclair has collaborated with a brilliant array of contemporary musicians, from saxophone giants Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, Daniel Carter and Earl Turbinton to hornmen David Amram, Michael Ray, Charles Moore, James Andrews, Dave McMurray and Kermit Ruffins, guitarists Wayne Kramer, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Willie King, Jim McCarty and Jeff “Baby” Grand, and West African griots Bala Tounkare and Guelel Kuumba. Sinclair has released more than 25 CDs, including several with his band of Blues Scholars, and his recent books include It’s All Good—A John Sinclair Reader, Song of Praise: Homage to John Coltrane, Sun Ra Interviews & Essays (editor), a book of blues verse called Fattening Frogs For Snakes, and i mean you: a book for penny.
John Sinclair was born in Flint, Michigan on October 2, 1941. He attended Albion College and graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint College in 1964 with an A.B. in English Literature. At college he began writing poetry and music criticism and edited the school paper, The Word. Sinclair pursued graduate studies in American Literature at Wayne State University in Detroit, completing his master’s thesis on William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch while beginning his career as a poet, journalist, music presenter, concert and festival producer, music historian, radio broadcaster and educator. As a cultural activist Sinclair helped establish and direct the Detroit Artists Workshop, the Allied Artists Association, Jazz Research Institute and Detroit Jazz Center. He managed the MC-5, Mitch Ryder & Detroit and other bands, produced dance concerts at the Grande Ballroom, free concerts in the parks, the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festivals, and countless left-wing benefits, community cultural events, jazz concerts and poetry readings. Sinclair has booked bands, bought talent and done publicity for nightclubs, bars and concert halls; developed programs, written grants, raised funds and directed projects for jazz artists and community arts organizations; and produced records by artists from the MC-5, Little Sonny and Deacon John to Sun Ra, Victoria Spivey and Roosevelt Sykes. He’s been a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts; a professor of Blues History at Wayne State University; director of the City Arts Gallery and editor of the City Arts Quarterly for the City of Detroit Council of the Arts; producer and host of radio program series at WCBN-FM, WDET-FM and WWOZ-FM New Orleans; and designer and producer of WWOZ’s live broadcast from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. As a professional journalist Sinclair has written columns, features and reviews of jazz and blues, rock & roll and poetry and writing for publications of all sorts, from obscure local papers to downbeat and Playboy magazine. He’s published poetry books and journals, edited underground newspapers, arts quarterlies and blues magazines, and written liner notes for albums by artists from Louis Armstrong, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes to Johnny Adams, the Wild Magnolias and the Rebirth Brass Band. A marijuana activist since 1964, Sinclair has fought on the marijuana side of the War on Drugs through Detroit LEMAR, which he founded in January 1965; Amorphia, where he served as a Board member; NORML and a five-year struggle in the courts of Michigan that cost him 2-1/2 years in prison before he overturned Michigan’s marijuana laws on appeal and helped enact the historic $5 fine for marijuana activity in Ann Arbor. Sinclair was Chairman of the White Panther Party and its successor, the Rainbow Peoples Party, battling Richard M. Nixon and his goons from the beginning of his administration to the bitter end. It was Sinclair’s court case challenging Nixon’s warrantless wiretap program that produced the historic Supreme Court decision in U.S. vs. U.S. District Court that “national security” wiretaps could not be allowed—at least not until the Bush-Cheney-Rove era of the 2000s.
Sinclair left Detroit in 1991 and spent 12 years in New Orleans before establishing his present base in Amsterdam in 2003, where he founded his internet radio station, www.RadioFreeAmsterdam.com, in 2004 and began the process of establishing the John Sinclair Foundation. He continues to release records and books and tours throughout Europe and around the United States with a stunning variety of musical collaborators. Sinclair’s books have been translated into Italian, French and Spanish, and 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, Madrid, Barcelona, Florence, and Santiago, Chile. At the 2006 Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam a potent, prize-winning strain of Dutch marijuana was named in his honor. Later the Ceres Seed Company developed John Sinclair Seeds for sale and distribution throughout Europe and the United Kingdom. John Sinclair may be reached through the John Sinclair Foundation, 2930 E. Jefferson Avenue, Detroit., Michigan 48207.