Activist Championed by John Lennon Dies at 82

( – John Sinclair, whose prison term for marijuana possession inspired a rock show in 1971, has died at age 82. The poet and writer was jailed in 1969 after giving two joints to undercover cops, but his case was taken up by a group of musical giants, including John Lennon and Stevie Wonder, who campaigned for his release and organized a concert in his name.

Beatles legend John Lennon even penned a song titled John Sinclair, which he and his wife Yoko Ono performed at the “John Sinclair Freedom Rally” in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in front of 15,000 people. Mr. Sinclair’s prison sentence of almost ten years was cut to 29 months, and he left jail just days after the concert.

A renowned counterculture activist in Michigan in the 1960s and 1970s, Sinclair founded the anti-racist White Panthers Party and punk band MC5, which he managed from 1966 until 1969. He also founded and edited several underground media publications, including Fifth Estate, which is still printed today.

The activist and poet said he dreamed of a post-industrial America, with marijuana smoked freely. He called for a “guitar army” to spearhead a revolution that would end the “death culture” of the United States. He later admitted to the naivety of his previous positions, but he continued to advocate for legal marijuana throughout his life. Sinclair would live to see that dream become reality in his home state when Michigan legalized its recreational use in 2018.

Born in Flint, Michigan, in 1941, Sinclair attended the University of Michigan and edited the college paper, The Word. He graduated in 1964 and embarked on a writing career with various magazines and journals. At the time of his arrest in 1969, marijuana possession was a felony carrying a hefty jail term, and following his release, he continued to campaign for legal reform.

Mr. Sinclair died at the Detroit Receiving Hospital on April 2 from congestive heart failure. He married twice and had two daughters.

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