Detroit Poet and Political Activist John Sinclair Dies at 82

April 02, 2024, 12:17 PM by  Allan Lengel

Being inducted in 2023 into "Legends Plaza."

In July 2023 (Deadline Detroit photo)

Curious, creative, cantakerous, and certainly irreverent, Michigan legendary poet and political activist John Sinclair died Tuesday at 7:58 a.m. at Detroit Receiving Hospital. He was 82.

Publicist Matt Lee tells Deadline Detroit that the official cause of death is congestive heart failure.

"He had been having chronic health problems for the longest time," Lee said.

The counterculture icon lived near downtown Detroit in a house built in 1885, Joe Lapointe wrote in a Detroit Free Press article in December 2021. 

"I feel beat up, old and beat up," he told Lapointe. "I’m semi-crippled. I got everything wrong with me. I’ve got a lot of problems."

Bill McGraw wrote in an obit Tuesday in the Detroit Free Press: 

"Gleefully proclaiming the joys of rock ‘n’ roll, drugs and sex in the streets, John Sinclair reigned as a nationally celebrated troubadour of youth rebellion during the psychedelic era, playing a lead role in making Detroit and Ann Arbor counterculture hot spots with the MC5 band, the White Panther Party, cutting-edge concerts and flamboyant rhetoric."

Sinclair was the manager of the Detroit rock band MC5 and became one of the founding members of the White Panthers, a militant, anti-racist organization. The Flint native helped found the Ann Arbor Sun, an underground paper in the mid-1960s.

He served nearly three years in prison for marijuana possession and was freed in 1971. He famously challenged the legality of the government's warrantless wiretapping and ultimately prevailed in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972.

In recent years he operated an Internet radio station,

Last July 23, on a hot Saturday, Sinclair, musician and producer Don Was and WDET radio host Ann Delisi dipped their hands into a slab of wet cement for their induction into "Legends Plaza" outside the Detroit Historical Museum on Woodward Avenue in Midtown Detroit.

During the induction, he talked about his Internet radio station, saying the key to a good radio show is to never play bad songs.

Speaking at his induction in Legends Plaza with fellow inductees Ann Delisi and Don Was.


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