by John Tarpley
Famously, John Sinclair bounded through the '60s fueled by radical idealism and hay bales of marijuana, creating the White Panther Party and writing reams of Delta blues-inspired beatnik poetry before famously being bulldozed to jail with a 10-year sentence tied onto him for giving an undercover narc two joints. Soon after, Sinclair became not only a marijuana martyr, but his case became one of the most visible causes celebres of the era, culminating in the "Free John" benefit concert, public co-signs from Stevie Wonder, Allen Ginsberg and, most famously, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who penned the brilliantly catchy sing-song, "John Sinclair." Hours after the concert, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned the ruling and, after two years in the pen, Sinclair was released. (Come to think of it, it's pretty astounding that his tenure as the manager for MC5 is one of the least fascinating things about him.)
What I'm trying to say is: This guy is a living legend who has lived legendarily and with a lot to say. And not only is it worth listening to, it's a blast to hear. Last year, I had the pleasure of moderating a talk with the man at the Clinton School of Public Service. He turned Sturgis Hall into a standing room-only affair before packing out White Water Tavern hours later and keeping a reverent crowd engrossed, enchanted and, occasionally, in stitches with his beatnik spoken word blues, like some kind of a pothead Mark Twain. He returns to the Tavern once again with friend, co-collaborator and Pan prince of Delta blues, David Kimbrough Jr.
Check it out: "Preachin' the Blues" (live at KEXP studios)