John Sinclair (born October 2, 1941) is an American poet, writer, and political activist from Flint, Michigan. Sinclair’s defining style is jazz poetry, and he has released most of his works in audio formats. Most of his pieces include musical accompaniment, usually by a varying group of collaborators dubbed Blues Scholars.
As an emerging young poet in the mid-1960s, Sinclair took on the role of manager for the Detroit rock band MC5. The band’s politically charged music and its Yippie core audience dovetailed with Sinclair’s own radical development. In 1968, while still working with the band, he conspicuously served as a founding member of the White Panther Party, a militantly anti-racist socialist group and counterpart of the Black Panthers.
Arrested for possession of marijuana in 1969, Sinclair was given ten years in prison. The sentence was criticized by many as unduly harsh, and it galvanized a noisy protest movement led by prominent figures of the 1960s counterculture. Sinclair was eventually freed in December 1971, but he remained in litigation – his case against the government for illegal domestic surveillance was successfully pleaded to the US Supreme Court in United States v. U.S. District Court (1972).
Sinclair eventually left the US and took up residency in Amsterdam. He continues to write and record and, since 2005, has hosted a regular radio program, The John Sinclair Radio Show, as well as produced a line-up of other shows on his own radio station, Radio Free Amsterdam.