John Sinclair: legendary manager of MC5 and marijuana activist dies aged 82, as Iggy Pop leads tributes

Iggy Pop is among those from the Detroit music scene to pay tribute to John Sinclair, one-time manager of MC5, who has died aged 82.
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John Sinclair, known for his role as manager of legendary Detroit garage rock band MC5, has died at the age of 82. A representative for Sinclair told the Detroit News that he died of congestive heart failure.

Known much for his activism during the counter-cultural movement of the ‘60s, Sinclair was an activist for the legalisation of marijuana and was co-founder of the White Panther Party, the anti-racist social group that served as a counterpart to the Black Panthers.

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But it was his work with proto-garage rock band MC5 that brought Sinclair to the attention of the music industry further:  the group, also known as the Motor City Five, gained fame as the official band for left-wing gatherings in the city. After their appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, the band returned to Detroit and performed at the Grande Ballroom in October of the same year. During this performance, they recorded their album Kick Out the Jams, which became their signature work - including the legendary line “Kick out the Jams, mother f**ker,” which has become synonymous with the band. 

But the band fired him in 1969 after an acrimonious split over differing political approaches and money.

Tributes have been made since the announcement, including a fellow luminary from Detroit Rock City, Iggy Pop: his X (formerly Twitter) account posted the following message: ““He was a truly interesting man, one of a kind. Thanks and praises.” 

Tributes were also made by Billy Fuller, who has played bass for acts including Robert Plant, Portishead and Massive Attack, who wrote “RIP John Sinclair… I met him once when I was asked to bring some smoke for him before his gig at the Thekla in 2002. He signed my copy of kick out the jams as a thank-you”

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