John Sinclair

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Transcription

McKiernan Interviews
Interview with: John Sinclair
Interviewed by: Steve McKiernan
Transcriber: Carrie Blabac-Myers
Date of interview: 7 August 2019
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(Start of Interview)

0:02
SM: All right, we are on.

0:04
JS: Good

0:05
SM: Well, first off ̶

0:06
JS: Now can I ask you this? Can you give me an mp3 file of this when it is done?

0:11
SM: Oh, yes.

0:12
JS: Okay, great.

0:12
SM: Yeah. It has, it has to be it has to be sent from the university. Not me, the university.

0:17
JS: I do not care who sends it, I just want to get it.

0:19
SM: Yep. You will get it.

0:21
JS: For my records.

0:22
SM: Yeah, all my interviews and everything has to be approved first before they ever can be used for research and scholarship.

0:29
JS: [laughs]

0:31
SM: Okay, my first question.

0:32
JS: Well, I do not have that problem.

0:34
SM: [laughs] Okay.

0:36
JS: I am just a citizen.

0:37
SM: Yeah, my first question is when you think of the 1960s and early 1970s what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

0:46
JS: A big smile.

0:48
SM: [laughs] Is there anything beyond that smile?

0:56
JS: Well, I was just thinking about what a great time it was.

1:00
SM: Is there any particular event that stands out to you during this whole (19)60s early (19)70s that, were you were not involved that, you know, think it was an amazing event and also an event where you were involved?

1:22
JS: Oh, I do not know. It was daily life for me since from about (19)64 until I do not know, (19)80 some time. [laughs] It was a succession of events day after day. A way of life. It was not just events you know what I mean? It was not no Woodstock or nothing like that.

1:47
SM: Right.

1:48
JS: Daily life with people. Taking LSD. You know. Fighting the government. Trying to end the war in Vietnam. Putting on free concerts, all that kind of stuff.

2:00
SM: When do you take when to take your first drug?

2:04
JS: My first what?

2:05
SM: When did you take marijuana or any drug? When was the first time you ever took it?

2:13
JS: Well you know, marijuana is not a drug. That is a misconception. Marijuana is a medicine.

2:21
MS: Right.

2:24
JS: I started smoking marijuana by 1962, early in 1962. But before that I took sleeping pills. I drank cough syrup. I drank beer, wine, whiskey, rum. [laughs]

2:38
MS: What was your ̶ You grew up in Flint. What was it like growing up?

2:42
JS: I grew up in Davison, Michigan, outside of Flint, a little country town.

2:46
SM: Yeah. What was it like growing up for you?

2:51
JS: Well, it was like the movies of American life in the (19)50s in a small town of all white people.

2:59
SM: Did you go to a big high school?

3:01
JS: No, I went all thirteen years in the same building.

3:04
SM: Oh my gosh.

3:06
JS: I grew up in a small town Davison.

3:12
SM: I can tell you are a jazz.

3:20
JS: ̶ There was not anything in the town, it was an escape from the town, you know.

4:06
SM: Right.

4:06
JS: Mentally I could escape by listening to Ray Charles and Big Joe Turner. You know.

4:12
SM: Yeah well, Ray Charles is one of the one of the really good ones.

4:17
JS: Yeah.

4:17
SM: Do you?

4:18
JS: Well, I got into him right at the time that he switched to Atlantic records in 1952. I was eleven. So I remember his records on Atlantic, you know.

4:27
SM: Were you also if you were interested in the blues, were you also interested in jazz?

4:32
JS: Not until I got out of high school.

4:35
SM: Yeah, Coltrane and Miles.

4:37
JS: When I went to college, I got turned on to jazz.

4:40
SM: Yeah.

4:41
JS: And then I became a jazz fanatic. Then I became, in the mid – (19)60s I was an avant garde jazz fanatic: John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, Archie Shepp, Pharoh Sanders, you know.

4:57
SM: Will you ever into the group Weather Report?

5:01
JS: No, they were a little tame for me.

5:03
SM: [laughs] Well, um, when you look at the rock scene, obviously, you know, this is the era where music played a very important role in the (19)60s and (19)70s in the lives of both young people and all people in fact, were there any rock groups that stood out during that timeframe for you?

5:22
JS: Oh, sure. Of course.

5:27
SM: Any particular ones?

5:29
JS: You ever hear of the Beatles?

5:30
SM: Uh, I think I have.

5:31
JS: The Rolling Stones? The Who?

5:34
SM: Right.

5:36
JS: Let us start with them.

5:40
SM: Yeah.

5:41
JS: I was the manager of a group called the MC5. I was associated with scores of groups in Detroit, and later around the country. So yeah, I was aware of all of them.

5:54
SM: I have questions that I was going to ask later on about MC5, but maybe I will ask him right now because that was in the mid – (19)60s that you became their manager?

6:02
JS: Correct (19)67. Yeah, quite a few people that I know were MC5 fans. They were very wise.

6:11
SM: Well, they were MC5 fans [inaudible] quite a few people I know at Kent State were MC5 fans. They were music that was kind of, if I can remember correctly, that the Yippies really liked?

6:24
JS: Well, yeah, we were Yippies.

6:26
SM: Yeah. What was it like to be a Yippie? And for people?

6:30
JS: ̶ It was great!

6:30
SM: For those who may not grew, who may not know what Yippie is, what is a Yippie?

6:33
JS: A Yippie is a member of the Youth International Party or their followers that were not members. They did not really have a membership. They did not even have an office it was an idea promulgated by a recently departed Paul Krassner.

6:51
SM: Oh, yes.

6:52
JS: Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman and Ed Sanders and other guys.

6:57
SM: Yeah they were.

6:59
JS: ̶ That I knew.

7:00
SM: Yeah, Jerry came to Ohio State when I was there and gave one heck of a speech.

7:04
JS: I will bet he did. That was his forte.

7:08
SM: I remember that was 1971 and he was wearing that bandana with all those paintings on his face.

7:14
JS: Yep, yep. That was his peak right there.

7:17
SM: Yeah, well the crowd was unbelievable.

7:18
JS: That was when he got John Lennon to help me get out of prison.

7:23
SM: That whole thing about the event that took place in 1971. Correct me if I am wrong, you came to national fame because people got to know you through that song 'John Sinclair' is that correct?

7:37
JS: No.

7:38
SM: No? How did you become famous?

7:42
JS: Well, they gave me ten years for two joints. No appeal bond. I was fighting the marijuana laws and in 1972 I overturned the marijuana laws in the state of Michigan. Just before that song time came out.

7:58
SM: And I know that so many people were upset about the penalty that was given to you for simply selling two cigarettes to an undercover

8:06
JS: ̶ No, no, I sold nothing. I gave a police woman two cigarettes because she asked me for one.

8:12
SM: Right. And then of course they had that concert.

8:16
JS: There was no sale.

8:19
SM: The rock musicians did this concert and I could not believe how many big names were there!

8:26
JS: [digital music plays in the background] Well it was a culmination of two and a half years of concerts by everybody that we knew; everybody that supported me and we culminated it in this and Jerry Rubin convinced John Lennon and Yoko Ono to attend, and that took it over the top.

8:47
SM: When you heard that song for the first time that you were in prison, when you heard it, were you surprised?

8:55
JS: Surprised.

8:56
SM: Were you surprised that John had not written a song about you?

8:59
JS: Oh, of course, sure.

9:00
SM: It was an unbelievable thing.

9:02
JS: I did not know him.

9:05
SM: Yeah, well I can remember hearing that song on the radio when I was a kid.

9:10
JS: I had already been released by then, by the time the song was released. What did it was when he came to Ann Arbor in the flesh and appeared at our rally. That was three months before the record came out.

9:17
SM: Okay.

9:17
JS: He sang the song there. He had just written it.

9:33
SM: You have been a poet, you have been a poet for a long time. You started out as a poet.

9:37
JS: Long time.

9:40
SM: How would someone say who maybe knows you real well describe your poetry?

9:47
JS: Oh I have no idea.

9:49
SM: How would you describe it?

9:50
JS: Describing my poetry is; no it is not something I; that describes itself. You read the poem, there it is, you know. It is what it is. I do not know, it is not about something, it is what it is, you know, I am a poet.

10:09
SM: Now, do you? I notice that you connected the music with the poetry? So you were the spoken word?

10:17
JS: That is just a marketing term you know. Poetry is poetry you know. Then they have this other genre where you can say anything and they have poetry slams, but none of those really have anything to do with poetry per se.

10:35
SM: When did you start being a poet? Did you write in high school?

10:38
JS: In 1962.

10:39
SM: Wow.

10:43
JS: And I got to be fairly good by (19)64.

10:48
SM: Now, I know that you had mentioned that Allen Ginsberg and Ed Sanders were at that one concert but you had been with him before.

10:59
JS: They were my mentors, I followed them.

11:02
SM: Wow. They were; when, Alan Ginsberg came to Ohio State, he filled two ballrooms at one time.

11:12
JS: That is good.

11:13
SM: And he never opened his mouth. He just did a chant. You know.

11:17
JS: Oh dear. That was the least favorite part to me I liked his poetry and his recitations.

11:24
SM: But it was, it was what they called a 'happening' back then, and you know that word. I have some specific questions on the (19)60s and (19)70s. In your opinion, when did the (19)60s begin?

11:40
JS: January 1, 1960.

11:43
SM: Okay. When did it end?

11:49
JS: December 31, 1969. When the (19)70s started.

11:56
SM: How do you feel about people that say the early (19)70s are part of the (19)60s?

12:01
JS: Oh, I do not care what they say.

12:02
SM: Yeah. A lot of people say that, and I mean, I have interviewed so many people.

12:08
JS: What they talk about the (19)60s, does not include the first part of the (19)60s either. They are talking about (19)68 to (19)75 or something like that. When white people discovered what was hippies, is what was going on. Really 19(69) Woodstock, really started in (19)69 what they think of it see because before that, they were all squares. Hippies was a small community of people regarded as outcasts. Hated by squares.

12:45
SM: I know that the ̶ we interviewed a person who mentioned that he thought the (19)60s was divided into two parts. Part one was 1960 to 1963 when Kennedy was shot and then (19)60s and then after that (19)64 to (19)70 when all hell broke loose. How do you like that commentary? Do you agree with that?

13:09
JS: No, I see at all as a continuity.

13:16
SM: Also, the Beats played a very important role here. And I like the thought on the Beats because this is just it is way beyond just having Allen Ginsberg and Ed Sanders. You know they were different. And they were the first one that really kind of challenged the system in many ways with their writings. They were ahead of their time. Some people, some people think that the (19)60s really began with the Beats in the (19)50s. Your thoughts on that?

13:43
JS: Well I do not know you are using the (19)60s as a metaphor for a period of social change. That really has a different set of numbers, so it is kind of confusing. You are talking about the social revolution that took place in the (19)60s and early (19)70s.

14:03
SM: Yes. And all the movements.

14:04
JS: That is not the (19)60s though. The (19)60s was ten years, you know, it was a decade. [laughs]

14:12
SM: Well, that is important, when I interview people, they have different opinions on everything in terms of the (19)60s and even on the Boomer generation. The one thing, and your thoughts on the issue of spirit when we talk about the boomer generation; which is originally when I was going to be writing a book on.

14:30
JS: The what?

14:31
SM: The Boomer generation that were born between 1946 and (19)64.

14:36
JS: Oh Boomer. Okay, yeah.

14:38
SM: I got corrected a many times by people by saying, it is not about age, it is about spirit. It's about the spirit of the time, I think was Richie Havens that told me that, "I am born in 1941 Steve and I am the (19)60s. I am the spirit of the (19)60s", because it was a period of time where there was a scary ̶

14:57
JS: Well, we were the ones who did the things that were different. Yeah, yeah, I was born in (19)41. Sanders was born in (19)38 you know, we were the ones who did the things that were different.

15:09
SM: Right.

15:10
JS: People our age.

15:13
SM: When you hear that you know ̶

15:15
JS: We were inspired by the beatniks and by black people.

15:21
SM: Could you explain a little more detail what you are saying there in terms of, because the people that will be listening to these who are going to be doing research and scholarship on this period. When you say that 'the beatniks' and people of color; black people were the inspiration. Could you go into a little more detail?

15:43
JS: Well, yeah, what do you want?

15:46
SM: How? Well how they inspired. How they inspired the spirit overall of that period.

15:53
JS: Well, by their example. By the way they lived, by the things that they created, their art, their ideas.

16:02
SM: Can you ever see a period of time? If the music was not there would there have been the (19)60s?

16:09
JS: I am sorry?

16:10
SM: If there had been (none) of the music that we all know happened in the (19)60s and (19)70s, would there have been a (19)60s?

16:19
JS: I do not know. [laughs] I do not know how you do these things! How you are going to separate these things? And why? Why do not we talk about what happened? I am not interested in speculating. I am interested in what happened. What is going to happen next?

16:37
SM: Yeah. What? When you look at this, when you look at this period, this ten years from 1960 to (19)70, what did happen in your in your view that made it so different than other decades?

16:55
JS: [laughs] Well, I saw the same thing that everyone else did. I do not know what you are you trying to get out of me? These are kind of big questions.

17:06
SM: Well, just based from your experiences, the things that you know, how you became who you are, and how you became the activist that you were, the poet that you were, the musician.

17:16
JS: I followed the example of the beatniks and I intermingled with black people and I studied their culture. This is what shaped my personality. Now, I got to write that practice you know? I listen to a lot of records. Thousands.

17:41
SM: One of the musicians that always fascinates me is Marvin Gaye. And particularly when he made the changeover in the late on that 1971 period when he did the album, What's Going On.

17:55
JS: Correct.

17:55
SM: And I thought it was his greatest work. But he got heavily criticized for it because I think because they were saying it was not the typical Marvin Gaye music and that seemed to be, I mean, a major happening in the early (19)70s in the music world.

18:14
JS: It was.

18:15
SM: I mean, I played it over and over again. It is that kind of music with messages.

18:18
JS: Also, Stevie Wonder do not leave him out, talk about brilliance. They were twin towers of creativity.

18:27
SM: Right. Look at the people.

18:30
JS: Then the Rolling Stones took Stevie Wonder on tour with them and introduced him to white people and then he became bigger. They also did that with Ike and Tina Turner and with B.B. King.

18:45
SM: What would your thoughts on the whole, the lawsuit or the ̶ that particular one in Ann Arbor, with the marijuana what the whole lawsuit that you won? Or Leonard Weinglass was your lawyer and it was case.

19:05
JS: That was a real specific case. That was a federal case of conspiracy. I was charged with conspiring to blow up a CIA office in Ann Arbor.

19:17
SM: And you won that case?

19:20
JS: Well, yeah, because the government said that they were wiretapping and they had, the defendants were captured on wiretaps but they could not say who the wiretap was on because it was a matter of national security. And then it came out that they were tapping national security targets without a wire warrant, and we challenged that in court with Weinglass, Bill Kunstler and the great Hugh M. Davis Jr. of Detroit.

19:57
SM: That is a major case because that whole period of the (19)60s with all these illegal things happening with COINTELPRO and all those activists organizations, I know when I was in college, they were spying on our campus.

20:10
JS: They were spying on all campuses and they were not supposed to have anybody active in United States. I did not happen to conspire to blow up this office but I know the people who did and I know why they did it to call attention to the fact that the CIA had an office that was recruiting on the campus of the University of Michigan. In violation of international and national law.

20:35
SM: So that is an historic case.

20:37
JS: So we unearthed them. Yeah well, the historic part was that we won in the Supreme Court. See, we had a judge in Detroit who just died, Damon Keith, a great jurist. It was in the eastern district of Michigan and he awarded in our favor that there was no such thing as a warrantless wiretap and that the government, he ordered the government to divulge the information on the wiretaps and they said, "We cannot divulge it because then we would have to say who it was on and blah, blah, blah, and it fits with our strategy." And they said, "Well, you have got to reveal it or drop the case." And so he freed us from the charge, and then the government appealed the judge's ruling. So my case went to the US Supreme Court, as US versus US District Court, eastern district of Michigan and that was adjudicated in the Supreme Court, eight to nothing in our favor and Nixon was repudiated. As a result of that this group, this organization, government organization, called FISA was created which came up again in the Bush era because he was defying them. You remember that?

21:25
SM: Yes, I do.

21:57
JS: Well FISA was established as a result of our case. Because they wanted to get a wiretap that nobody else knew about they had to go to the FISA court. They could not just bop one on somebody. You know what I am saying?

22:15
SM: Yep.

22:18
JS: That was a lasting result of that. And they say we had something to do with Watergate. Because you know because Watergate was about removing their wiretaps.

22:32
SM: Right.

22:33
JS: My case was decided on a Friday afternoon in the Supreme Court. Justice Rehnquist had just been appointed from the Nixon so-called Justice Department to the Supreme Court. He had recused himself from the case because he had been one of the architects of the warrantless wiretap.

22:53
SM: Oh my God.

22:54
JS: Well they presume that (they decided my case on Friday, but they did not announce it until Monday) and they presume that Justice Rehnquist called the Nixon-Mitchell office and told them that they had lost in the Supreme Court eight to nothing, and that if they had any wiretaps, they'd better get them out by Monday so they could say that they did not have any.

23:21
SM: Wow.

23:21
JS: And that was the Saturday of the Watergate break in.

23:24
SM: Unbelievable! Well that is historic. [laughs] Crazy, huh? Yeah, that is historic!

23:30
JS: Yeah. That is what they say. There is no way to know. But that is what they say.

23:35
SM: Yeah. Were you in the courtroom when, when they were doing their legal arguing? Weinglass?

23:43
JS: Yeah I was there in the Supreme Court. Yes.

That was a thrill. And the great Bill Bender argued our case. The nation's leading constitutional, leftwing constitutional scholar. He argued our case. Another great part of it was that the Solicitor General of the United States Erwin Griswold refused to argue Nixon's case because it was so full of shit. [laughs]

24:14
SM: Everything Nixon did was that way mostly. [laughs]

24:17
JS: So in the Supreme Court it ended up that this, one of those, um, criminals from Arizona, I think it was Robert Martian. One of those guys. Part of that Hauldeman-Ehrlichman axis. They had to argue the case and they were [inaudible] the Supreme Court ripped him to shreds.

24:25
SM: Oh my god. Wow.

24:39
JS: Yeah, I was so thrilled. [laughs]

24:43
SM: Well, that particular event where they all came together; the activists and the musicians and so forth. I mean you had, you know, Rennie Davis was there.

24:52
JS: Well, that was what we did see, we were they White Panther Party. We had the MC5. We were associated with the Stooges and really fifty other bands in Detroit and Ann Arbor.

25:06
SM: Wow.

25:07
JS: This is what we did.

25:08
SM: Now this is where I would like you to give a little more detail because I, the MC5, I have some people at Kent State, some former students there who were big MC5 fans, could you talk about MC5 and their influence? The years that you had them as their manager and just talk about all these bands you are talking about in Detroit? Your life is fascinating.

25:32
JS: Ha!

25:32
MS: No! It is. I mean, it is! You know, all the different categories from being a poet, a musician, a writer. Radio, having your own radio shows, a manager of a rock band, you write! And what you did with the underground newspapers. I mean, your life is amazing.

25:54
JS: Well thanks. I was inspired by Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Ed Sanders, Amir Braka.

26:02
SM: He cannot get any better than that. Because they are the Beats.

26:05
JS: That is where I come from.

26:07
SM: Yeah, we grew up on that.

26:08
JS: And then I took a lot of LSD.

26:11
SM: Yeah. How many trips did you have?

26:15
JS: I could not tell you that.

26:18
SM: Did you write your best poetry when you were on a trip or did just, you did not want to be on any kind of medicine at all when you when you wrote your poetry?

26:29
JS: I just take as it comes.

26:32
SM; But what? Now how did the MC5 come together?

26:39
JS: Well, they went to high school together in Lincoln Park, Michigan.

26:44
SM: And how did you become their manager?

26:48
JS: Well, I heard the band and I thought they were great and I became a huge fan and I saw them every time they played for a year, and then I became their manager. They needed someone to help them.

27:01
SM: Right. And the band was often categorized so that they were involved in issues caring about certain issues. They were more of a ̶ and they performed I believe in Chicago.

27:15
JS: Right.

27:16
SM: And just before that they went crazy there in the park. Describe that scene.

27:26
JS: Well, they played and then the police attacked the people in the park and we fled.

27:32
SM: I think I think that is when Rennie Davis gotten beaten over the head, I think. I know he said he was there.

27:38
JS: Well, Rennie Davis was in another part. See they also had the Democratic Convention. And that was father downtown than the park, you know. We were in Lincoln Park with the Yippies created this thing called the Festival of Life as an alternative to the Democratic Convention. We had the music and the poetry and the acid. The other people were conflicting with the Democratic Party and the Chicago police regularly for a week or so.

28:16
SM: Could you talk a little more detail about the festival?

28:18
JS: That was led by the SDS and by the mobilization against the war in Vietnam. We were led by the Yippies.

28:29
SM: Could you, in your own words describe a little bit more about the Festival of Life when we talk about the (19)68 Democratic Convention we all hear about the SDS and that group, the activist groups, and we know that Andy Hoffman was there and that there were some Yippies there but we do not really see the breakdown.

28:48
JS: No, no, no, we were not part of the protest at the convention we had our own event.

28:52
SM: Right. I know. But I do not think it is discussed that much. They always just talk about the

28:57
JS: Well, that is not our fault. I kind of discuss it now.

29:02
SM: Could you do it? Could you talk a little bit more about the Festival of Life?

29:08
JS: Yeah, it was a Yippie event created by Ed Sanders, Paul Krassner, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and others. I was in on the planning of that as well. It was, the idea was to put on a free concert in the park in Chicago in protest against the Democratic Party and not just the Democratic Party but what we called the 'death culture.' See the Democratic Party was carrying on the war in Vietnam. Full force at that time, full force. Now Lyndon Johnson had stepped down because he did not feel he would get reelected because he had [inaudible] this war so fiercely, which was true. And so Humphrey was running and he had been Vice President so he was just as bad. So we want anything to do with the Democrats. So we put on our own event because our whole outlook was alternative, alternative to the death culture. Then we were going to have this political conversation? We were going to have a free concert. All the bands in the hippie nation were supposed to play. The Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, they all got scared when they saw the people getting beat up by the police. So none of them came except for the MC5 we came from Detroit by car; and we played. We were determined to play. Fuck the police.

30:46
SM: How long did the MC5? Are they still performing? Or are they kind of broken up?

30:55
JS: They broke up in 1972, yep. I thought you were writing about the (19)60s. You do not know about the MC5?

31:03
SM: Yeah, I know, I got it right here.

31:05
JS: They were the greatest band of the (19)60s. [laughs]

31:09
SM: But I did not know that they had all dispersed and gone separate ways.

31:13
JS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You need to read the book that Wayne Kramer recently published called The Hard Stuff. Then you should talk to Wayne Kramer, the lead guitarist in the MC5.

31:33
SM: The White Panther Party was formed because it was the Black Panthers had asked you to be a counter another support group for their cause correct me?

31:48
JS: No, no, no. No they put out a; white people were asking what they could do to further the cause of the Black Panther Party and Bobby Seale and Huey Newton said you should start a White Panther Party. So we did that. We responded to that. We thought that was a good idea.

32:08
SM: Did you have a lot?

32:09
JS: They said, our real problem is the white people. So somebody else needs to have a radical party to organize white people in our support. And in support of socialism. Because first of all, the Black Panther Party was a democratic socialist organization.

32:28
SM: Again, the White Panther Party existed from (19)68 to (19)80?

32:32
JS: (19)80? I do not know anything about that.

32:38
SM: I thought the length of time that the party was together was for twelve years. The Black, I mean, I am not talking about Black Panthers; the white, the White Panther Party was to kind of

32:49
JS: No, we changed it to the Rainbow People's Party in 1971. So for us, it went from (19)68 to (19)71. Some other people in San Francisco kept a White Panther Party, but it was not us.

33:07
SM: Now you were um, you lived in the United States, and then you moved to Amsterdam, as well, you have;

33:14
JS: Oh, you are jumping ahead quite a bit, yeah.

33:16
SM: I am going all over the place. Yeah. I have got so much here on your life. But I wanted to talk about that because I think it is when I think of Amsterdam, I think of jazz.

33:29
JS: Jazz?

33:30
SM: Yeah. A lot of jazz musicians go to Amsterdam. It is a very creative city. It is a very progressive city.

33:36
JS: Yeah. But not music or art. What progressive is that they keep your hands off of you. But their art is terrible and so is there music.

33:48
SM: Yeah, I know jazz musicians like Amsterdam because they feel like

33:52
JS: Well, they like to hear them play so they got gigs there you know?

33:55
SM: Right.

33:56
JS: And it is a great place to live, but not so many live there. Many more live in Paris or Copenhagen.

34:04
SM: You were involved in working with underground newspapers too.

34:09
JS: Correct.

34:09
SM: I am reading a book right now on the history of the underground newspapers.

34:13
JS: Oh wow.

34:14
SM: And their impact on the on the Vietnam War and a lot of other causes but particularly the Vietnam War.

34:24
JS: Do they have anything about the [inaudible]?

34:26
SM: I have only, it was a book written in 1993. It cost me fifty dollars I am just start starting to read it. And Tony Auth the cartoonist for the piece, the late cartoonist from the Philadelphia Inquirer is in it quite a bit too, because he did a lot of underground.

34:45
JS: Who was that?

34:45
SM: Tony Auth.

34:48
JS: I do not know him.

34:49
SM: Yeah, he was in the Philadelphia Inquirer for many years be came from Los Angeles.

34:52
JS: Oh, oh. No wonder.

34:53
SM: But he talked a lot about it, but you worked with the underground newspapers and you have been involved with them.

35:01
JS: How you contribute is, you did not get paid. It was not like working for them.

35:06
SM: They are important.

35:07
JS: Yeah, I know, but the important part was that people did it because they felt this information should be disseminated, not because they were getting paid. And they were not owned by anybody they were collectively owned. It is a beautiful thing.

35:28
SM: Well.

35:29
JS: Totally the opposite of the journalism that they have now.

35:32
SM: Exactly. I remember being in three different universities and I got my news from them.

35:38
JS: Right.

35:39
SM: And I still got a lot of them that I kept and never threw them away.

35:42
JS: Right. And you will not find one today. Will you?

35:45
SM: No, I go on the campus today and I do not see anything. But in terms of their influence during that period of time, we are talking about the (19)60s and (19)70s when so much was happening. They were vital, were not they? To me they were vital.

35:58
JS: Vital. Rock and roll, underground newspapers and underground radio. You know then, we did not have no internet.

36:09
SM: That is right.

36:11
JS: You know and to communicate you had to write up something, type it on a mimeograph, run it up on the mimeograph, fold them up, buy the envelopes, buy the stamps. Put them in envelopes, write the address, send them and three days later they get the message. So that was the [inaudible] in which you operated. So the underground paper, they came out every week, right? Or every other week at worst. That is the way that you found out what was going on.

36:43
SM: I got to interview Vietnam vets who said that were in their basic training, they found out a lot about the Vietnam War through reading underground newspapers.

36:54
JS: Yeah, because the army was not going to tell them.

36:56
SM: No.

36:58
JS: They were just cannon fodder to them.

37:01
SM: This is when they were doing their six weeks basic training.

37:03
JS: Underground papers had a great role in creating the resistance within the armed forces, which became a decisive factor. It really was marked most prominently by the great testimonial of John Kerry, a Naval lieutenant who said this is all horseshit.

37:28
SM: Right. Yeah.

37:30
JS: To me, that was a turning point.

37:33
SM: That was amazing.

37:34
JS: In ending the war.

37:36
SM: Well I interviewed Bobby Moeller, earlier today, and we were going into detail about that particular time that he went before the Foreign Relations Committee with Senator Fulbright. And that was historic and to add that some of the atrocities and then there was a book written I think, about 2003 by Mark Turce and it talks about the atrocities in Vietnam and it's just; that were hidden for many, many years by the government and then he was able to find them. So uh.

38:10
JS: Well the whole thing was an atrocity from beginning to end. You know, these are people that are farming rice in their paddies. They were not at war when nobody except for the dictators of South Vietnam who were backed by the US. They were not doing nothing to nobody. They never came here. We killed hundreds of thousands of people and then the bomb, you know, horrible, horrible. Every part of it was horrible. It was inhuman.

38:44
SM: Yeah.

38:45
JS: And they lied about it from beginning to end.

38:49
SM: Yeah. The whole (19)60s when you think about it. It went; to me, the watershed event was the Vietnam War and civil rights obviously is another one.

39:02
JS: Yeah, the twins.

39:03
SM: Yeah the twins and

39:04
JS: And then the Women's Movement came up. And then the Gay Movement.

39:08
SM: Right. That was in (19)69.

39:11
JS: Yeah.

39:12
SM: Yeah. It's like this whole, you know, you are involved in this period when all these groups are coming to, you know, the various causes they all we had the anti-war movement and of course, we know about the civil rights movement and with a women's movement and the gay and lesbian movement with the Chicano movement. I have been interviewing some Asian Americans who were a lot older, there was a movement in that particular group. We do not hear about too much.

39:41
JS: Yeah, they had the records expunged from when they locked him up in the concentration camps during World War II.

39:48
SM: Yes, yes, yes and you have got doctor Tekaki talking all about that and some of his books, and certainly the history of the Native Americans is another one.

40:00
JS: Yeah.

40:01
SM: This all kind of comes together in the (19)60s and in the, in the (19)70s, and you are involved in a lot!

40:08
JS: Well, you see, once they assassinated their own president, that kind of pulled covers; it started to pull the ̶ you know, that was the end of the illusion that this was all on the up and up. They killed, they assassinated the president!

40:26
SM: Yes.

40:26
JS: They did not like his policies, they got rid of them. You know, that was the beginning of the end.

40:32
SM: Did we ever have an Age of Innocence even before he was killed?

40:36
JS: Oh, I do not know what you mean by we ̶

40:39
SM: America, this nation.

40:41
JS: There is no such thing. America, you know, there is black people. There's white people, there's rural people that do not, there's no such thing as that. It is all a myth. We just all live in the same piece of land. An Age of Innocence, you know they came over here and stole this country from the people that lived here and assassinated them in huge numbers and not only assassinated them but removed their way of life. Killed off the plants and the animals that they ate. That is the innocent White people. The poor white people. Rotten motherfuckers.

41:22
SM: The word that has been used a lot; we are that we are a very xenophobic nation. Afraid.

41:31
JS: I am not part of no 'we' like that. I am nothing like any of that. That is not my 'we'. I am a we with those who were born here. I am an American, but I do not subscribe to all of that horseshit.

41:47
SM: When you look at the term, the 'Yippies' and the 'hippies', and how the anti-war movement and we are all the people for that period, they kept talking about Theodore Roszack wrote that great book The Making of a Counterculture that was kind of required reading on college campuses in the early (19)70s. To you, what is the definition of a counterculture?

42:11
JS: That is never a term that I use. I thought that guy was totally full of shit. Roszak.

42:18
SM: Yeah.

42:19
JS: They made it required reading on campus so that they would all get the wrong idea. Course, the next idea they got on campus was that history was over. [laughs] So you see where they were trying to lead the young people in their educational facilities?

42:38
SM: Well, you know, we learn more about history by reading Howard Zinn, because Howard Zinn,
because Howard Zinn had an alternative view.

42:43
JS: Exactly. Umberto Eco. [laughs]

42:50
SM: Yeah, you know, I actually had a chance to meet him. He was an interesting man.

42:56
JS: I will bet. He is a good writer! I like his novels.

43:01
SM: Well, his history was unbelievable too and so, one of the things here I wanted to: what, of all the movements you have been connected to the course, several movements in your own way but, what of all the movements that took place in the (19)60s and (19)70s how important was the anti-war movement in ending the war? There has been a lot of discussion of this in books and scholarly writing.

43:34
JS: Well, what do they say? The people who were waging the war did not end it. They kept it on as long as they possibly could. It was us that ended it.

43:46
SM: Oftentimes the criticism is the college students, the alternative view is that the college students did not end the war in Vietnam. Maybe the general protesters might have been but there was a lot of criticism of college students I do not know if you had that same feeling.

44:04
JS: What? I do not I do not care what anybody thinks okay the criticism these fucking idiots means nothing to me. There was what happened and then there was what did not happen or whatever they say, they are nuts! Plus, they got agendas of their own! They are capitalists.

44:24
SM: Why did we lose that war? In your opinion.

44:28
JS: We? I won!

44:31
SM: I am not going to say 'we' anymore.

44:32
JS: I was on the side of the Viet Cong! We won! Why did America lose it? Because they were on the wrong side. They were on the wrong side of history and they were on the wrong side in the war. They were wrong. They were evil, vicious, you know invaders.

44:59
SM: They certainly did not understand

45:00
JS: Bombers.

45:01
SM: They did not understand the culture they were going into ̶

45:04
JS: Well, they understood well enough that it was different from ours and needed to be eradicated. They used the same shit they used on the Indians. They destroyed the villages and tried to destroy their livelihood. You know, they are just totally vicious. That is the way white people are, it is what they are all about. You know, yeah, the European Union now, I am a big fan of European Union, cause seven years ago, these people were bombing each other's cities. Well, now they got people rising up in all these countries that want to go back to that. They are a fucking idiots.

45:48
SM: I love your honesty. I love your honesty.

45:52
JS: That is all I got.

45:52
SM: Do that know that? I love that that I like about you and all the people I have been interviewing is I love hearing their points of view. Because they are all they are all valid.

46:03
JS: And you will not be hearing them on TV. [laughs]

46:08
SM: No you will not. You will not. Well, I want to get back to the event that happens every year that I believe we just came from, which is the Hash Bash. The Hash Bash.

46:21
JS: Hash Bash, first Saturday in April. Yeah.

46:24
SM: Now that has been happening since 1971? When did when it first start?

46:29
JS: First Hash Bash was (19)72. We had a gathering in (19)71 but it was to protest my imprisonment. In (19)72, I was already out. (19)72, see when my case, came to the Supreme Court and they overthrew the marijuana laws, they would passed a new one, but it did not take effect for three weeks between March 9th and March 31st in (19)72, they did not have a marijuana law in Michigan at all. So we took full advantage of that we make quite a bit of hay with that. And then we were going to put it back into effect on April Fool's Day, we thought the idea would be to have an event in the middle of the campus to stick our middle finger up and say fuck you we are not going to pay any more attention to the new law than we did to the old law because you are still wrong. There should not be any law. And now that is what we have now but it took place last year, fifty years later, you see.

46:46
SM: Wow. Fifty. And how many people come to the event every year?

47:38
JS: Thousands.

47:40
SM: And look, I am going to try to make it next year. What is the date is eight? What is it?

47:45
JS: First Saturday in April.

47:49
SM: It is in Ann Arbor?

47:51
JS: Yes.

47:52
SM: I have been trying to make it.

47:54
JS: Cannot miss it.

47:56
SM: I am going to be certainly at Kent State next year. You are going to Kent State for the fiftieth?

48:00
JS: No.

48:01
SM: I am trying to try to make that.

48:05
JS: [laughs] They will probably shoot some people in their celebration of the fiftieth. The Government, Trump, you know.

48:14
SM: Yeah, a lot of things strange things are certainly happening now. I, one of the questions I have here is what in all the events and again, this is just your personal feeling. What was the watershed event in the 1960s? I said Vietnam War, but what do you feel is the watershed event and I preface this by saying that many Vietnam vets I say six Vietnam veterans, some well-known some not, have stated that the, they felt they had to be involved in the Vietnam War because it was the watershed event of their youth.

48:19
JS: I do not know. I do not know I find it impossible to reduce anything to one thing. It was a huge movement.

49:06
SM: Mm hmm. When you think of the hippies, hippies and the Yippies, and the SDS 'ers, and the even the American, the conservative student groups and everything, it was quite, it was quite a time when there are a lot of different groups involved in certain kinds of protests. I do not see that today. I do not see it anywhere really.

49:32
JS: Oh, they protest today, I mean, the political moment is pretty similar to the way it was that then, they just do not have hippies anymore. But they have protests all the time.

49:45
SM: But they have protests, but they are more like singular protests. For example, the women's groups are all going to be there. I do not see a lot of other groups beyond the women's movement. That has been a criticism of the gay and lesbian movement, even Martin Duberman's written about it. That the one concern he sees with the gay and lesbian.

49:46
JS: Ok wait a minute, now we are going back on the criticism. What are they doing? The critics? What is they are answer to the fucking uh, oppression of females? Other than criticism of the, groups that are doing something?

50:19
SM: Yeah, I think the crucial; the criticism was the ̶ that they are doing it singular and not in a unity with a lot of other.

50:25
JS: But can we follow their lead? Who are these people with all of the answers? Why cannot I sign up with them?

50:35
SM: Good point. Instead of being, in other words instead of being a critic you do it. You be the example.

50:46
JS: Well, I have been the example for years and years but so what? Why do I have to think about a critic? Who has a job and plenty of money in the bank and a house and a car and they are going to tell me what I am doing wrong or what somebody I believe in is doing wrong. I do not care about them. Fuck them. You know what I am saying? Every point we talk about, you start telling me about what the critics would say. I do not care about them.

51:17
SM: Maybe because I am, I guess, I read too much.

51:22
JS: I do not know.

51:22
SM: There are from books.

51:24
JS: I am a constant reader, I read from day to night, every day. But I have not got the wrong ideas. [laughs]

51:31
SM: You know, talking about you know, what are your favorite books from the (19)60s and (19)70s?

51:37
JS: Oh.

51:37
SM: You did not you did not like Roszack because of the making of the counterculture, but that is one of the ̶ that was one of the biggest selling books that there was.

51:45
JS: Well, that was one of the reasons that I did not like it. What do I want with a best seller?

51:50
SM: There was a cultural narcissism no?

51:52
JS: Best seller just means that more idiots fell for it. [laughter] That is not a criterion of goodness to me.

52:01
SM: That book if you ever had a chance to try and sit down read it was pretty hard to understand to.

52:07
JS: Well, because he did not have any idea what he was talking about. It is like that guy who writes about music who thinks he is so great Greil Marcus. They are just making that shit up. They do not know anything.

52:20
SM: Yeah, he, he did make money off it though, I will say.

52:23
JS: Well good for him, but what is that do for me?

52:27
SM: Nothing.

52:28
JS: Thanks.

52:32
SM: Today when we are looking at now again, I want to get back to the Hash Bash because what, when you have the venues and you have the events there that are planned Who, who, who plans the Hash Bash on an annual basis number one, and how do they break it down? Is it musical groups is it you know, speakers, you know, what is the Hash Bash?

52:57
JS: They must have a website where you can go to and see this stuff.

53:04
SM: Is it over several days?

53:05
JS: I am just a founder, you know, I go on I read a poem, I give a poem and then that is it. So they have speeches, I do not listen any of them.

53:17
SM: And they covered what subjects basically? Anything?

53:21
JS: I do not listen to them!

53:23
SM: Ok. [laughs]

53:26
JS: Probably telling you about marijuana, legalizing marijuana. I started the legalize marijuana movement in Michigan. I do not get to listen to anybody. I know they got what they are talking about from me. [laughs]

53:26
SM: I know that there was a gentleman in San Francisco that was really involved in trying to get this passed as well. I am not sure if he is still alive. But how many states now are there that have legalized marijuana?

53:57
JS: Quite a few.

53:58
SM: Yeah. Do you think do you see?

53:59
JS: See, I mean, when you talk about no movement, today marijuana smokers are very well organized group of democratically oriented people who passed the law. They register, they put it on the ballot and they vote for it. Nobody else does that. We do it. We have been doing it. That is why its legal.

54:24
SM: Do you see that in maybe fifteen or twenty years from now that all fifty states will be in unison?

54:31
JS: I hope so. For their sake.

54:34
SM: Yeah, because I work part time in a pharmacy and I see how we have people that are sick that are taking marijuana from the pharmacy. So ̶

54:45
JS: Oh yeah? You are you supplying it?

54:46
SM: No, we it has been okayed by the doctor. And so we have we have it in the protective area of the pharmacy.

54:54
JS: But you have it though?

54:55
SM: Yes, we have it.

54:56
JS: Yeah. You know in Amsterdam they have medical marijuana. You have to go to a pharmacy and tell them what you want and then they have to go buy it from a coffee shop [laughs] they do not have it on the premises. Yeah, I got it. I got some just to see what the protocol was.

55:16
SM: Yeah, well, we have it under lock and key.

55:18
JS: You had to wait three days.

55:20
SM: We have it under lock and key.

55:23
JS: I will bet.

55:26
SM: But I, you know, I some of the other things here I got so many things I wanted to ask here

55:32
JS: Better do it now.

55:34
SM: The divisions that we see in America today are so terrible. Obviously this President has accentuated it. But um

55:43
JS: Well its racism. This has always been a racist country. This guy just brings it out because that is what he is getting elected on. He is getting elected because he is a creep. He is a, he is a capitalist pig. And he is a racist dog and they like that.

56:01
SM: Amazing though that ̶

56:02
JS: And they were really pissed off that they had a black president that they had to bow to for eight years. And they almost a woman! These are Americans man, these are the motherfuckers that fight in our wars. [laughs]

56:16
SM: John, is not it amazing though when you think of everything that you have lived through, I have lived through that we have just experienced in our lives, that we are still dealing with this. This kind of crap in the year two thousand nineteen.

56:30
JS: Well, they will be dealing with it until they get rid of racism. You see?

56:34
SM: Yeah. Racism is what America is built on, it is what it is all about. You know that had these people were slaves for them for three hundred years. Three hundred years is more years then the country is alive. That is right.

56:49
JS: And they never said they were sorry. They have never given them the reparations. They keep treating them like they are inferior citizens. They do not have education or jobs for them. What do they expect? Shit. These people go around shooting people, Jesus Christ! They show them all these movies of people killing people all the time. They sell them any fucking gun they want. What do they think is going to happen? Guy goes to a shopping mall and shoots his sister!

57:19
SM: When you see when you see the TV that we grew up with in the 1950s, which was all about westerns and cowboys killing.

57:27
JS: And the police, the police were

57:29
SM: Yes.

57:30
JS: Do not you remember Sergeant Friday?

57:31
SM: Yes, yes, yes.

57:33
JS: Yeah.

57:34
SM: We saw these things and you know shooting and killing and all the other stuff and you kind of wonder well, what kind of effect might that have? When I said Age of Innocence I was referring more to the (19)50s but that was not an Age of Innocence. They were still hanging people in America. They were you know.

57:50
JS: They just came back from a war where they were shooting people in the face you know.

57:54
SM: Right. Yeah. It is a ̶ it is kind of sad. We are still in those kind of situations.

58:02
JS: Well, that is what we call [inaudible] ̶

58:06
SM: Of your many deeds and accomplishments what are you most proud of?

58:13
JS: Wow. Whole thing. I like it all.

58:24
SM: This is uh, you know, you, I am, you are very good at this because you are proud of who you are. You are proud of who you are.

58:33
JS: I am. What I have done and proud of what I have done.

58:36
SM: Yeah.

58:38
JS: Well, I am just another human being filled with faults and [laughs] wrong doing you know.

58:46
SM: You probably never thought when you were in high school that you would end up doing all this stuff in your life. Did you? You know.

58:52
JS: Well I did not know anything about anything till I read "On the Road."

58:55
SM: Right? Right. Oh, yeah, Jack Kerouac. Oh yeah, I read that book. That is an unbelievable book.

59:01
JS: Yeah.

59:02
SM: Classic.

59:03
JS: Well it opened up a bigger world for me. I grew up in a small town.

59:10
SM: Yeah. Well, I tell you, we had five beat writers on our campus when I worked at Westchester.

59:16
JS: Oh that is cool!

59:17
SM: And we had the female writers and, Ann Waldman came.

59:22
JS: Oh wow! That is a great writer!

59:23
SM: Yeah Leroy Jones' wife.

59:27
JS: Oh Hettie!

59:28
SM: Hettie. Yeah. I interviewed Hettie for the project.

59:31
JS: Oh good.

59:31
SM: So she was she was there. Who else? We Ed Sanders. Ed Sanders came though because he knew the English professor who wrote a lot about the Beats. So Ed came, and we had another one. Well, we had about five of them all together. I did meet Allen Ginsburg though at Ohio State.

59:50
JS: That is good!

59:50
SM: And he was just, he is a, what a giant he is.

59:55
JS: Yeah, he is a great American.

59:58
SM: Now if you look at the people from (19)60s and (19)70s period who did, who do you admire? And who do you totally despise?

1:00:10
JS: I admired thousands of people. John Coltrane. He was God to me. Who did I despise? Richard M. Nixon and his whole gang of thugs.

1:00:32
SM: Is there anybody that you kind of dislike and like? I, you know that combination that mixture; that now one day you just cannot stand the guy or gal, and the next day you support them? Was there anybody in that medium, middle ground?

1:00:51
JS: Yeah, I used to think Eldridge Cleaver was great and then I thought he was an idiot.

1:01:01
SM: Yeah, he changed. There is no question about that. "Soul on Ice". Some of the slogans from that era too. Which of the slogans that you remember more than any other from the (19)60s and (19)70s?

1:01:16
JS: I do not know.

1:01:18
SM: One of them is from a Yippie. Pardon?

1:01:25
SM: One of them is from a Yippie. A friend of yours. Jerry Rubin "do not trust anybody over thirty".

1:01:32
JS: Well, things like that, we were wrong about a lot of things so it is hard to have an emotional connection with our ideas of that time. Because so many of them were wrong.

1:01:42
SM: What is amazing is he was twenty-nine when he said it! [laughs] He was thirty before he knew it. And then of course um, there are other ones as well. Yeah. Some of the people again that came to your VIP event in 1971, the John Sinclair Freedom Rally is just amazing. I am looking at the list of some of the names here. I know Pete, Bob Seeger was there.

1:01:54
JS: He was trying to warn them. Yeah.

1:02:16
SM: Phil Ochs was there.

1:02:18
JS: He was a local band, Bob Seeger.

1:02:21
SM: Right.

1:02:22
JS: At that time.

1:02:22
SM: Yep.

1:02:23
JS: Until (19)75.

1:02:26
SM: And then Ginsberg and Sanders were there.

1:02:28
JS: Phil Ochs was Jerry Rubin's best friend.

1:02:31
SM: Right. And we lost. You are correct. We lost a really fantastic person a great person in Paul Krassner.

1:02:39
JS: Yeah.

1:02:40
SM: I interviewed Paul a long time ago. He gave me a lot of names

1:02:45
JS: I will bet he did! He knew everything.

1:02:47
SM: And but he he'd be funny and he'd be funny one minute and dead serious next.

1:02:52
JS: Yeah. Yep.

1:02:53
SM: And I did not know he was ill. I had not known the story.

1:02:57
JS: Well he was eighty-seven or something. Jesus Christ. You have the right to be ill then.

1:03:04
SM: He did a lot of a lot of good things and a lot of people will remember him and he was memorialized on my Facebook page. People that I did not even know knew him, admired him. People that had never met him, admired him. So he, it's a big loss for that period. What were some of the um, you know, this whole thing do we learn from people? Lessons of life. What were the lessons that we hopefully learned from the (19)60s so that we will not repeat them again?

1:03:41
JS: I do not know, again you are talking about that we that I am not really a part of.

1:03:49
SM: That could be you. It's your thoughts on

1:03:52
JS: Well, I did not have to give anybody a joint.

1:03:55
SM: [laughs] Yeah, that is right.

1:04:00
JS: That is what I learned.

1:04:01
SM: Because you could go to jail for it.

1:04:04
JS: Correct and I did go, to prison.

1:04:07
SM: And, and is not it, unbelievable? The number of books right now being talked about how many people are in prison for reasons that they should not even be in prison?

1:04:19
JS: Well, yeah, that is what America is all about, prisons.

1:04:23
SM: It is true.

1:04:24
JS: We got more prisoners than anybody on earth.

1:04:28
SM: Yeah.

1:04:28
JS: It is a lucrative business.

1:04:31
SM: I agree. And, and it's and again, I would hope that someday one of our leaders would take a look at this issue in more greater detail and get some of those people out of jail. I mean, they are people in jail for selling marijuana to a friend at a rock concert. I mean, come on. You know, so ̶

1:04:56
JS: Who do you think you are talking to?

1:04:57
SM: I know. I am going to get into the Vietnam. The, some basic, general questions with not 'we', 'i' things that you think about. When the, what was your thought on the way Vietnam veterans are treated upon the return from the Vietnam War which was pretty bad.

1:05:20
JS: Well, they still treat them that way. I think it is outrageous.

1:05:24
SM: I agree. And they were dying in massive numbers compared to World War II vets they were dying faster than they died.

1:05:33
JS: Well, they had more sophisticated weaponry and chemical warfare that they were exposed to.

1:05:38
SM: Yup. Used to be just mustard gas. Right. And Agent Orange is a, is a killer.

1:05:48
JS: Do not, do not forget Napalm. Do not forget you know, they are soaking these people with fire in their villages. You know, I feel bad for the Vietnamese veterans the way they are treated but on the other hand I think they are despicable for what they did to the people in Vietnam. And I do not hear them saying they were sorry, very often is they are mostly whining about themselves. But you see if they would have stayed here, they would not have had those things happen to them that is basically my bottom line.

1:06:22
SM: Do you agree that

1:06:25
JS: I say we tried to tell you not to go.

1:06:28
SM: Yup.

1:06:28
JS: You insisted on going so you got what you deserved, I thought.

1:06:33
SM: Some got drafted though.

1:06:34
JS: I hate to say it like that, but that is the way I feel.

1:06:35
SM: Some got drafted and could not get out of the draft which is, you kind of empathize.

1:06:36
JS: Well then you did not have to go and choke the motherfuckers.

1:06:43
SM: Right.

1:06:43
JS: You should take your medicine.

1:06:48
SM: Do you think that uh, I personally have a feeling that the people that served in the war, that did not commit atrocities that is, are heroes by simply serving their nation but then I also believe the anti-war

1:07:07
JS: Oh, what was the? What did they contribute to our nation? By fighting in Vietnam? What did we get out of that?

1:07:17
SM: Well, they did not get anything out of it.

1:07:19
JS: What did we get the people they were defending? Did the Vietnamese come into our bedrooms and cut our throats at night?

1:07:26
SM: Yes, yes. Yes, that is what, that is what I am getting at.

1:07:28
JS: I do not think so.

1:07:30
SM: A lot of the anti-war movement was about not only trying to make sure we did not send men over there to die, but also to save the lives of the Vietnamese citizenry.

1:07:42
JS: Of course.

1:07:42
SM: And to be caring about them.

1:07:44
JS: Humanitarians!

1:07:45
SM: Yes and, and I do not think we do enough talking about that particular aspect of the war. That two to three million died in that war. Many most of them are innocent citizens. Because of the saturation bombing they took on the airplanes and everything else.

1:08:04
JS: Right.

1:08:05
SM: So it is.

1:08:07
JS: What I am talking about is because they are still doing it to people in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. You know, that is what they do. Now, they do not put the people on the ground so much they just are in Colorado and they send these things to bomb these people's villages. They are even uglier today than before and we got two or three wars going on at any given time. And they are endless. They have been in Afghanistan longer than they were in Vietnam.

1:08:41
SM: Right.

1:08:43
JS: Fighting a religious war.

1:08:46
SM: Now, going to another area here. You are still writing newspaper columns correct? On cannabis?

1:08:52
JS: Well, I write a marijuana column for Michigan Marijuana Reporter monthly magazine.

1:08:58
SM: Yes. And how long have you been doing that?

1:09:05
JS: Well, next week it will be my one hundred and second column.

1:09:10
SM: Wow. And you have already brought up the fact of the, you know, the marijuana, the people, the movement and everything. How many people do you think are involved in that movement right, we are now nationwide?

1:09:29
JS: Oh I have no idea.

1:09:32
SM: But you have got a big following, a lot of people are involved in this issue.

1:09:37
JS: Well, a lot of people smoke weed.

1:09:38
SM: And I just go into the store Barnes and Noble and I see a lot of a lot of magazines dealing with cannabis.

1:09:48
JS: A lot of people smoke weed. They have been at war with this for eighty years.

1:09:56
SM: And when you hear that

1:09:59
JS: And we are winning.

1:09:59
SM: The old slogan sex rock, sex, drugs and rock and roll that was what some people, that was how they defined the (19)60s and early (19)70s. What do you say?

1:09:59
JS: That is a bowdlerization of our slogan. "Walkin' low, dope and fucking in the streets."

1:10:09
SM: [laughs] Oh, wow.

1:10:21
JS: That is the original.

1:10:22
SM: Oh, okay. Huh?

1:10:24
JS: I invented that.

1:10:26
SM: And they are banning that and they are using the sex drugs and rock 'n roll huh?

1:10:31
JS: They have been for years.

1:10:35
SM: Now, things that people are now, as someone; I do not have any of your books and I would like to buy some if I could. I would pay for them and you can sign them because I'd like them to be at the research center from people. I definitely want to and I will email you on this another time. But I certainly want to have books written by you or articles that will be with your interview and a picture and everything like I do with the all the other people I am interviewing. But of all the books that you have written, which of all the books that you have written what is the one that you think people should read that they really want to know who you are

1:11:22
JS: [laughs] You know, I do not care if they know I am. That is not why I write. I write to say things. I am not into celebrity culture; means nothing to me.

1:11:34
SM: That is okay. But [inaudible] ̶

1:11:38
JS: I do not care if they know who I am or not.

1:11:42
SM: But they will certainly remember you when they hear your commentary on things.

1:11:46
JS: That will be good.

1:11:47
SM: And that is what, that is what makes you very unique and very historic, in my view. It is, as I say, again, your involvement in so many things. It is like you are multitasking in life, and I also like the fact that you keep bringing the "I" in it. It's my life. It is my thoughts. It is my thought. I do not care what other people think.

1:12:12
JS: Well, that is all I got.

1:12:13
SM: Yeah, I guess my problem is I read too much and then I you hear this person says this and so it makes me think about what they are saying. That is why I asked the question.

1:12:22
JS: Being in an academic environment also.

1:12:24
SM: Yes.

1:12:26
JS: It is pretty stifling. That is what I think.

1:12:26
SM: So now you are obviously an activist. Now when you look at the categories the poet, the writer, the activist, the musician, the radio program, all these other. The um, is there one that stands out above other that you would not have become good in the others if it had not been for this one? Is it the fact that you.

1:12:53
JS: I do not know. I do not think like that I do not have any idea.

1:12:56
SM: You started out as a poet though.

1:12:59
JS: I am still a poet.

1:13:00
SM: Yeah, but you were a thinker, poets are thinkers.

1:13:04
JS: And I still am

1:13:05
SM: Yeah, yes, yes. Poets are thinkers and writers and ideas and ̶

1:13:10
JS: That is what I do.

1:13:11
SM: Yeah, we will see that that is you and that is helped that think help you expand in this other world of activism and whatever the other categories we might be talking about here.

1:13:28
JS: I do not really get what you are saying. I am the same guy, whatever I am doing, I am the same guy.

1:13:34
SM: Okay, that is all I need. I do not think I have anything. Um, the, the foundation that you have right now the John Sinclair Foundation.

1:13:50
JS: Right.

1:13:51
SM: Now that is really there to protect all the things you have been involved in. Is that correct? So the copyright?

1:13:58
JS: Well, to preserve yes and extend into the future past my lifetime.

1:14:08
SM: That is excellent. Where is that located? Is that in Detroit?

1:14:12
JS: Yeah, it is in Detroit. It is not a physical thing. It is an idea.

1:14:18
SM: Okay. But when you are no longer around who is going to be protecting your stuff?

1:14:24
JS: Oh my board members. Okay very good. Yes, it includes all your books and I guess it your records and ̶ Well, I am in the process of transferring all my intellectual property ownership to the foundation. And also like, I am doing a speaking thing next week for a group of doctors and they are giving me a nice piece of money. I am donating all fees like that to my foundation because I do not need no money.

1:14:55
SM: Very good.

1:14:57
JS: I am on Social Security.

1:14:59
SM: What is your speech on?

1:15:01
JS: Marijuana. A pain conference of doctors. In Cincinnati.

1:15:10
SM: Wow. See, I know people who are dying of cancer and they need it.

1:15:17
JS: Well they need some Simpson Oil, yeah.

1:15:23
SM: We have a customer where I work who does get it and it is helping her survive.

1:15:31
JS: I know two guys that came back from their deathbed. Now, I know a lot of other people that take it since then. Because they proselytize.

1:15:41
SM: Right.

1:15:42
JS: It is good stuff.

1:15:47
SM: From the, from the (19)60s themselves who do you stay in touch with? Is there any of the; do you stay in touch with Bobby Seale and some of the other activists?

1:15:56
JS: Now I never really knew Bobby Seale. I have met him in recent years. But and I met David Hilliard in recent years, but you know, you usually see people when you go to their part of the country so I am in touch with a lot of people around here that were around in the (19)60s.

1:16:17
SM: You link up at all with I think Jeff Gibbs and the movie producers from the Flint area?

1:16:23
JS: You know, I went to their festival last week. I saw Jeff's movie "Planet of the Humans."

1:16:32
SM: How is it?

1:16:34
JS: Terrific.

1:16:38
SM: I got to go see it.

1:16:39
JS: I got to see Mike Moore. Me, Jeff and Mike all went to Davison high school.

1:16:49
SM: And, and Michael was a few years after you though, correct.

1:16:53
JS: They are both thirteen years younger than me.

1:16:55
SM: Right. Wow, they had a high school produce those three. Wow.

1:17:03
JS: [laughs] Amazing, huh?

1:17:03
SM: Yeah, but what is it about Flint? Now, not just the high school, but what is it about Flint that can create three people like you?

1:17:15
JS: Oh we were beyond Flint, we were in Davison, like you know, five thousand people when they were there. [laughs] A great place. It used to be called the vehicle city. When I was a kid in the fifties they had three shifts in the factories around the clock. They had Buick, Chevrolet, Fisher Body, AC spark plugs, Delco batteries, they had all kinds of factories. Powerful little place.

1:17:53
SM: Well Michael Moore's movies have certainly had an impact on people.

1:17:57
JS: Oh yeah, if you had ten Michael Moore’s this would be a different country.

1:18:00
SM: I agree. And he is and he is got a movie, he is probably got another movie in mind he is one after another.

1:18:07
JS: I am sure he does. Well, he edited this one with Jeff.

1:18:10
SM: Right.

1:18:14
JS: He was saying how much fun he had doing some hands on editing because he does not get to edit his own. [laughs]

1:18:24
SM: I guess when since a lot of what I am talking about is the era you grew up in and the America that you grew up in. I am going to say the 1950s (19)60s, (19)70s and (19)80s. And then we got the (19)90s and now. But people our age, those are the ̶ those are the formative years. When you think about those formative years, and you think about America, and you think of what I know you have you have some very negative things to say but what do you think what do you say to the people that are listening to this? When you look at those forty years of post war, say post World War II America and right through to Ronald Reagan, what do you say? What do you say about that?

1:19:13
JS: Well, it is better than post Reagan. You know the ugliness of today started with Reagan. Although Trump makes Reagan look like Socrates.

1:19:32
SM: Now that is a quote.

1:19:34
JS: And he was a stupid motherfucker and a terrible actor.

1:19:40
SM: Yeah, one of the things will always we will never forget about Ronald Reagan is his insensitivity towards people with AIDS.

1:19:48
JS: Well, anybody that was not white and straight. This just came forward in one of his racist conversations with Nixon, just in the news this week.

1:20:05
SM: When would you say that? In the (19)60s and (19)70s, we were taking many steps forward in the positive, trying to get rid of racism, sexism and homophobia. So we take two steps.

1:20:17
JS: Well, we were you know, the opposition was but the government and the establishment was opposing every step of the way. And they still are. Because you see they are the problem. This is their world, that 1 percent that rules all of this, it is their fault. [laughs] Until you deal with them, it is going to keep getting worse and worse and worse.

1:20:43
SM: [inaudible]

1:20:44
JS: They own everything.

1:20:45
SM: What I was going to say was ̶

1:20:46
JS: They own every newspaper, every TV station, every movie, every record, they own everything.

1:20:54
SM: Well, when you consider the 2 percent of the population makes more than the 80 percent of the rest of the population that says something right there.

1:21:22
JS: Yeah, not very eloquently.

1:21:22
SM: The thing I am really getting at is that back then there was a perception that we were making two steps forward for every step backward now, some other thoughts that were for every step forward we are taking two steps backward. Is that a good description?

1:21:26
JS: I do not know. I know this asshole came in there and everything [inaudible] that the president did that was positive, he dismantled every bit of it.

1:21:34
SM: Right.

1:21:35
JS: What do you call that? That is a lot more than two steps backwards.

1:21:40
SM: You are right.

1:21:42
JS: When you put someone like Betsy DeVos in charge of the Education Department that is like a mile backwards.

1:21:53
SM: What would be your final thoughts on the (19)60s? Just your overall final thoughts on the (19)60s. The era that you say is from 1960 to (19)70? Not on, that is.

1:22:07
JS: Well that is the (19)60s, yeah.

1:22:10
SM: Yeah. Well, just give some adjectives to your final thoughts on that ten years here in America?

1:22:22
JS: I do not know. I do not think that way. I do not know what you want me to say.

1:22:29
SM: Any, any if you looked if you took the whole ten years, what would you say to someone? This is? This is what the ten years was about.

1:22:38
JS: I would not.

1:22:43
SM: So basically what you are saying is that everybody has their own thoughts, and it is the context.

1:22:48
JS: Correct.

1:22:48
SM: It is their context, not your context.

1:22:52
JS: Well, I mean, I do not think about it like that. It was a period in life you know, I have lived almost eight decades. They were all interesting. They were all different. What I did was different and in some ways the same but that ten years it was fun that is the way I look at it. It was fun and the ̶ I ended up in prison.

1:23:22
SM: And you grew from that, obviously, that experience really helped shape you.

1:23:28
JS: Well what else could I do? You live through it or you commit suicide. There is only two ways.

1:23:35
SM: Well you went in there, and then Supreme Court decision. I mean, the impact! That never happened.

1:23:41
JS: But that did not have anything to do with my jail sentence. That was a whole different case. You mean the US Supreme Court.

1:23:49
SM: Yes, yes.

1:23:51
JS: No, that was a whole different case.

1:23:52
SM: Right.

1:23:53
JS: That did not have anything to do with marijuana. I got nine and a half to ten years for possession of two marijuana cigarettes.

1:24:02
SM: Which was ridiculous.

1:24:05
JS: But that is what it was.

1:24:06
SM: It was outlandish and that is why everybody came to your support and the song and everything else.

1:24:11
JS: Right.

1:24:13
SM: And lastly, you would never; I do not think you would ever. Did you ever meet John Lennon?

1:24:19
JS: Sure.

1:24:21
SM: What was it like to meet him? What are your thoughts on him?

1:24:25
JS: Like meeting other male human being.

1:24:30
SM: Of course he was taken from us in 1980.

1:24:33
JS: Yeah.

1:24:38
SM: And from what I have read, is the reason why the Mr. Hoover in the whatever the FBI started getting on his case, when he started doing the song, John Sinclair or something like that in the protests.

1:24:53
JS: They did what now?

1:24:55
SM: I have read in the, in some books that when that concert happened or in that concert where he [together] sang the song, where he sang the song and Yoko's right by his side, that may have been the impetus for the CIA and Mr. Hoover or of course, he is FBI, I should say ̶

1:25:15
JS: I was also the fault of that asshole senator Helms.

1:25:18
SM: Right.

1:25:21
JS: He wrote to J. Edgar Hoover that this guy in the Beatles was causing trouble and J. Edgar Hoover wanted to know: who were the Beatles.

1:25:29
SM: Yup. Yup. Any final thoughts you want to say on anything?

1:25:37
JS: No. I am not ready to quit.

1:25:41
SM: Just keep going. I want to meet you in person.

1:25:44
JS: Well you have to come to Detroit right now.

1:25:47
SM: Now what I am going to do is I am going to try to come in next

1:25:49
JS: I will be in Cincinnati next Friday.

1:25:52
SM: I cannot do that but you will be at the event next year, will not you?

1:25:57
JS: Which one?

1:25:58
SM: The anniversary of the event we were talking about, the one in April.

1:26:09
JS: Oh, Hash Bash. I go every year.

1:26:13
SM: Well, that, that is where I am going to try to make it next year.

1:26:15
JS: Okay.

1:26:16
SM: Because I know a couple of people that I have interviewed and they are your friends and so they gave me your name and in so I just I would like to meet you because I would like to meet you because you are an activist.

1:26:30
JS: Well, God willing, I will be there.

1:26:32
SM: Yep. But let me just say, I will close with this. We will send you the university, we will send you a copy of this. It will be sent to your email address, I believe?

1:26:43
JS: Yeah.

1:26:44
SM: And they will send it to you and then you have to listen to it to approve it. And then then it will be approved and then it will be used for research and scholarship here at the Binghamton University with the other two hundred, two hundred seventy five other people I have interviewed.

1:27:00
JS: Good.

1:27:00
SM: In the archives, so people and we got to get a good picture of you. And I want your books and I will email you so that if there is books that you have that I can purchase from you, I will pay you and if you could sign them so they will be at the university with your interview.

1:27:15
JS: Will do.

1:27:17
SM: And, John, I want to thank you for being honest and direct, and being who you are. And, and when I had those melodramatic pauses it was because, man, this man knows what he wants. He knows he knows. He knows what he believes in. And that is, I like that in people. I like that in people. And I think and young people need to know that they are in control of their lives.

1:27:44
JS: Yeah, that is what you got to find out.

1:27:47
SM: You got to you got to believe in something too. So you have a great day.

1:27:52
JS: Thanks. Good luck.

1:27:53
SM: Thank you. Yep. Thank you. Bye now.

1:27:55
JS: Bye.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview

8/7/2019

Interviewer

Stephen McKiernan

Interviewee

John Sinclair

Biographical Text

John Sinclair is a poet, writer, and political activist. He was born in Flint, Michigan. Sinclair later became the manager of rock band MC5 in the late 1960s and was a founding member of the White Panther Party, a far-left, anti-racist political collective. He earned his Bachelor's degree in American literature from the University of Michigan and completed coursework toward a Master's degree in American Literature at Wayne State University.

Duration

01:28:05

Language

English

Digital Publisher

Binghamton University Libraries

Digital Format

audio/mp4

Material Type

Sound

Interview Format

Audio

Rights Statement

This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as: McKiernan Interviews, Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections for more information. The photographer, Glen Hieber has given permission for the photograph to be used.

Keywords

John Sinclair; 1960's; 1970's; MC5; John Lennon; The Beats; Beatnik; Beatles; Yippie; Hippie; Paul Krassner; Jerry Rubin; Allen Ginsberg; Hash Bash; (Davison; MI); White Panther Party; COINTELPRO; Bill Kunstler; Hugh M. Davis Jr.; Damon Keith; Abbie Hoffman; Festival of Light; Bobby Seale; Huey Newton; Rainbow People’s Party; Robert Martian; Hauldeman-Ehrlichman; Rennie Davis; Jack Kerouac; Eldridge Cleaver; John Kerry; Marijuana Movement; Michael Moore; SDS; FBI; CIA; J. Edgar Hoover; Ed Sanders; Leonard Weinglass; FISA; Justice Rehnquist; Nixon.

Files

john-sinclair.jpg

Citation

“John Sinclair,” Digital Collections, accessed December 2, 2020, https://omeka.binghamton.edu/omeka/items/show/1875.

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