Amiri Baraka – John Sinclair: Fattening Frogs For Snakes

Introduction by Amiri Baraka


If you been in America and ain’t sleep then I don’t have to begin where I wdda begun if you was just another dumbass American, souped up on not and aint. But suppose you had some feeling for what Dis is we in and how it’s the opposite of Art, and how as an Ain’t one of it’s chief physical/psychological/philosophical, soc-ec-pol, functions is to kill or make impossible the existence of Art. Then you would dig from the top, how rare and necessary is the John Sinclair work. Especially, if you know that many people think JS is, no shit, WHYTE!!!

(A dude told me this getting on the Mother Ship. I told the motherfucker that if the MS was segregated they was gonna shoot that johnson down! But you know, a hard head make a soft philosophy.)

The last irrelevance is not irrelevant here in Jungle Land because Animals are running shit and most of the place not yet fit for human habitation. They got the music lovers separated. You dig? Why, cause if they start digging the music from the same point of incorruptible ecstasy, even as different HUMANS (that’s the word, but that’s like a post-animal phenomenon, and ain’t in the house yet, too tough) then the Caucasian Crib, and the Absolutely Real Devils who run it and the world, like that old playhouse the old folks useta sing about, is gonna, like they said, get pulled right down to the ground. And the proprietors and they henchpersons gonna die, go to jail or be put back in the 4th grade ( for a long time).

What it is, is that JS, from way back, has been in the real world. And for bunches of white guys, certainly those who qualify as Straight Up Americans, that’s a trip not usually bothered with. Cause they doesn’t have to take it. What with the wall of bullshit and white supremacy, the straight out class removal from MOST of the world, including them poverty struck “white people” (technically speaking) in Appalachia, you know, them HILLBILLIES, and of course, any remaining hard ass unopportunist workers and the fucking Commies.

I say this, because I cant lie and the deep fuckup in Dis is that the majority have been bought by naught. With some shit thin as skin and “for a few dollars More” to help Toiletpop Bill and the demons rule and ravage the rest of the world, including the USA.

JS has been a WHITE PANTHER (NOSHIT) doing time for the crime of thought. And resistance to the continuing slavery of US imperialism and its prophylactic, racism. J has always been on the firing line, on the front line of saying and doing. He is a brother, in the real sense, of the flesh and the spirit, and his words, his stance, his loves, his perception and rationalization of the world, will bring him close to anyone not in the straitjacket of random imbecility and opportunism ( the “most finished form” of which, sd Lenin, is National Chauvinism).

John has always, since I been knowin him, dug the music. From the way back to the way out. Not in the “Gee Whiz” fashion of well paid critics, who are all much whiter than John. Hell, there’s a buncha wooden negroes much whiter than John, if it gots to be about something as flimsy as color. (Damn, Stan, you look mighty pale around the lips! But thass what money dooos.)

Because finally, it has always been about feeling and understanding. About Perception, Rationale and the Use, we make of the world. As my wife, Amina, says, “Whose side you’re on.” John, for instance, is one of the only dudes who cd pass for American, who really understands and can actually poet wit them word music Gleemen. Who begins from ON and can get to DIGNITARIA and even check SERIOUS. (As the Fon say.)

This book is about the Blues. The Blues is everywhere in America (Negro say, “I even give myself the Blues”) IT has to be killed, locked up, lied about, impoverished, character assassinated and oppressed, but it still don’t go away, it even stand out in the street where any silly motherfucker cd see it if they looked or even if they cd just hear.

John do hear and see the Blues. The old blues, the recent blues, the new blues, the blues, Europe (a black dude said), get in him when he “got to buy the baby new shoes”. All kinda blues be in John, and that’s different. Tell me white cats aint got the blues. It’s a lie. They might say they depressed. Or a nigger took they job. Or the iceman they real father. Or they psychiatrist feeling on they leg. But it still be the U.S. no shit blues.

“Fattening Frogs For Snakes”, yeh, that’s what Americans do, except the ones that really is Snakes. This is the United SNAKES ain’t it? So from jump, John know, what the definition of hope to die (say when) American is. And he rejects it like the music do. The music reject it because American is a definition of what ain’t got no use for the blues or for those who make the blues. Even tho, right up in its fucking flag, is a blues, some stripes, like real niggers (every body who gonna live) got on they backs.

The book is not a Homage to the Blues, it is a long long long blues full of other blues and blues inside of them. John all the way inside, and he got the blues. And he live in New Orleans, and all them motherfuckers got the blues, even the police.

John is drawn to the blues because it is real life, and ain’t much of that you supposed to have and understand that’s what it is. You can pay 9 dollars and get real life, after standing in line, in technical color. But if you stand up in the flick and say this ain’t real life gimme my money back, you trying to make a blues and chances are you will get the flag treatment before you split, that is there will be some white and some red in your life and on your head, before the owners through with you.

John has taken the Blues, many Blues, many Blues singers, their words, their feeling, their lives, their conditions, the places and traces of where they was and is, the Delta, Chicago under the El, in the streets of any anonymous Black and Blue America, and transformed them into a poetry a narrative epoch of PLACE and REPOSSESSION. He has given us the humanity of person, speech, description, song, dance, style, stance. What is political in the work is that it is about reality which is political like a motherfucker.

But everything got to do with people is political. “Whose side yr own”, again the definition. Like, “Cross Road Blues”, for Harry Duncan., about

“Tommy Johnson,
Born in Crystal Springs,
Mississippi, in 1896
left home around 1912
with an older woman”.

Like that, the precision of research, but in the context of song. You get the facts and throughout, the same music that he talking about.

“& then returned south
to Crystal Springs
& his family
& the peoples
who used to know him”.

In the language and gentle rumble of the guitar itself, from the sound in John, laid there, by them, but brought back, the music and the facts, for further beginnings, somewhere in our mind. So it is mise en scene , like French dramatists say, the living drama of place and person, engaged in being them, then and back to now.

“His brother LeDell
asked him how
he had learned to play
so well
in such a short time….

“He said the reason
he knowed so much,
said he sold himself
to the Devil…
I asked him how?”

* * *

“You have your guitar
& be playing a piece,
sitting there by yourself.
You have to go by yourself
& be sitting there

playing a piece.
A big black man
will walk up there
& take your guitar,
& he’ll tune it….”

The book is a marvel, in that it is not only poem, but research, bibliography, discography, history, of the most copious yet careful and earnest kind. Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Robert Lockwood, Booker White, Jimmy Rogers, Roosevelt Sykes, Little Brother Montgomery, Sunnyland Slim, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howling Wolf, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton and many peeps you don’t even know, all be in here. Where to find their music. What their lives were like. And what is, after all, the Blues, when it move inside you forever.

This is a rare and very flne book. An incredible work of passion, perception and song. John Sinclair, has been on the circuit more than a minute, and he has created a great many things, powerful incisive poetry and stinging analysis as well, but this book is something, entirely, else, and for this, even if he were not a long time roadie & comrade of mine, he should be celebrated with the respect one reserves for the wise and the courageously sensitive.



Dj Papa Saint Juan has created a 6-hour travelogue tied to Independence Day under the title Founding Fathers, with selections by Garland Jeffreys, Marvin Gaye, The Neville Brothers, Rod Stewart, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Richie Havens, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Buffalo Springfield, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Love, Sly & The Family Stone, The Doors, Jim Morrison, and Roy Harper. St. Juan quotes our Founding Fathers: “It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” (Samuel Adams); What do We mean by the Revolution?The War? That was no part of the Revolution. It was only an Effect and Consequence of it. The Revolution was in the Minds of the People, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen Years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington.” (John Adams); and “That government is best which governs least.” (Henry David Thoreau).

The John Sinclair Foundation Presents
DJ Papa Saint Juan, Los Angeles, June 20, 2020 [20429]

Theme Music: Winds Of Change ~
Garland Jeffreys: Wild In The Streets
Marvin Gaye: Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
The Neville Brothers: My Blood
The Neville Brothers: Sister Rosa
Rod Stewart: Street Fighting Man
Crosby Stills Nash & Young: Ohio
Richie Havens: Freedom
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Fortunate Son
Buffalo Springfield: For What It’s Worth
Bob Marley & The Wailers: Burnin’ And Lootin’
Love: Maybe The People Would Be The Times
Sly & The Family Stone: Stand!
The Doors: Peace Frog
Jim Morrison: An Hour For Magic
Roy Harper: Come The Revolution

Hosted by DJ Papa Saint Juan for Radio Free Amsterdam
Produced & recorded by DJ Papa Saint Juan in Los Angeles
Post-production, editing & annotation by John Sinclair
Executive Producer: Steve Pratt

© 2020 John Feins. Used with permission.

Heaven Was Detroit: From Jazz to Hip-Hop and Beyond Edited by M. L. Liebler with a foreword by Dave Marsh

Heaven Was Detroit: From Jazz to Hip Hop and Beyond is the first of its kind to capture the full spectrum of Detroit popular music from the early 1900s to the twenty-first century. Readers will find in this unique and stimulating anthology new essays, and a few classics, by widely known and respected music writers, critics, and recording artists who weigh in on their careers and experiences in the Detroit music scene, from rock to jazz and everything in between. With a foreword by the acclaimed rock writer Dave Marsh and iconic photos by Leni Sinclair, the book features such well-known writers as Greil Marcus, Jaan Uhelszki, Al Young, Susan Whitall, Gary Graff, John Sinclair, and many others.

Divided into nine sections, the book moves chronologically through the early days of jazz in Detroit, to the rock ’n’ roll of the 1960s, and up to today’s electronica scene, with so many groundbreaking moments in between. This collection of cohesive essays includes Motown’s connection to the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement through its side label, Black Forum Records; Lester Bangs’s exemplary piece on Alice Cooper; the story behind the emergence of rap legend Eminem; and Craig Maki’s enlightening history on “hillbilly rock” — just to name a few. With a rich musical tradition to rival Nashville, Detroit serves as the inspiration, backdrop, and playground for some of the most influential music artists of the past century.

Heaven Was Detroit captures the essence of the Detroit music scene: the grit, the spark, the desire to tell a story set to the rhythm of the city. Fans of any music genre will find something that speaks to them in the pages of this collection.

Contributors Include:Rick Allen, Aaron Anderson, Lester Bangs, Peter Benjaminson, Lars Bjorn, Ben Blackwell, S. R. Boland, Melba Joyce Boyd, Dan Carlisle, Gary Carner, Herman Daldin, Matt Deapo, Rebecca Derminer, Howard A. Dewitt, Mike Dutkewych, Hobey Echlin, Ben Edmonds, Larry Gabriel, Jim Gallert, Gary Graff, L.E. Grimshaw, Bill Harris, W. Kim Heron, Bill Holdship, Michael Hurtt, Daniel Jones, Robert B. Jones, Herb A. Jordan, John Rodwan Jr., Jarrett Koral, Danny Kroha, Shane M. Liebler, Craig Maki, Greil Marcus, Joel Martin, Brian McCollum, Scott Morgan, Chris Morton, George Moseman, Marsha Music, John Sinclair, Brian Smith, Matthew Smith, R. J. Spangler, Diane Spodarek, Pat Thomas, Thomas Trimble, Jaan Uhelszki, Rhonda Welsh, Susan Whitall, Willy Wilson, Al Young

An incredible book. Comprehensive, panoramic, and makes a case for Detroit being the greatest music city in the US. Which it isn’t. And that’s how good this book truly is, raising the point —why isn’t there a book like this for EVERY city in the US?

– Steve Wynn, singer/songwriter/guitarist of the Dream Syndicate

It seems there are certain places – my home town of Liverpool is one and Detroit is definitely another – that can’t so much as cough without producing music that awakens the world. You’d think giving birth to Motown would be enough for one city, but Detroit’s story didn’t start there and it sure as hell didn’t stop there. Now, thanks to M. L. Liebler’s eloquent army of advocates, we can see a little deeper into this resilient city’s soul. This epic book is everything Detroit deserves.

– Paul Du Noyer, founding editor of MOJO: The Music Magazine and author of Conversations with McCartney

M.L. Liebler’s shares his deep insights and passion for Detroit culture in this new anthology that assembles the A-list of music historians and storytellers from the one of the world’s great musical cities. It will help shine the international spotlight on Detroit’s valuable role in shaping some of the most significant music styles of the 20th and 21st centuries from Jazz and Blues to R&B, Rock, Rap and Techno.

– Judy Adams, musician, composer, musicologist, and WDET program director and prime time host for over 30 years

A ridiculously extensive genre-spanning overview of Detroit’s contributions to music, featuring a chorus of authentic, distinct voices — there’s something here for generalists and geeks alike. An essential addition to every music library!

– Michael T. Fournier, author of Double Nickels On the Dime and Swing State

M. L. Liebler’s Heaven was Detroit is a fascinating compendium of thought on the dazzlingly complex music of the Motor City.

– David Ritz, Grammy Award winner, the only four-time winner of the Gleason Music Book Award, and author of Before You Judge Me: An Idiosyncratic Look at Michael Jackson

The musical terrain surveyed in the nearly 70 pieces is as vast as the city itself. . . . Readers will find insightful writing on already famous artists such as John Lee Hooker, Marvin Gaye, Bob Seger, the MC5, Eminem and Kid Rock. But equal space is devoted to forgotten or overlooked arcana . . .

– Troy Reimink, Detroit Free Press

Impressively researched, written, organized and presented [ . . . ]

– Michael J. Carson, Midwest Book Review

M.L. Liebler’s shares his deep insights and passion for Detroit culture in this new anthology that assembles the A-list of music historians and storytellers from the one of the world’s great musical cities. It will help shine the international spotlight on Detroit’s valuable role in shaping some of the most significant music styles of the 20th and 21st centuries from Jazz and Blues to R&B, Rock, Rap and Techno.

– Judy Adams, musician, composer, musicologist, and WDET program director and prime time host for over thirty years

Heaven Was Detroit is a valuable collection whose diversity is, like the city itself, one of its greatest strengths.

– Joshua S. Duchan, The Michigan Historical Review

Heaven Was Detroit captures the essence of the Detroit music scene: the grit, the spark, the desire to tell a story set to the rhythm of the city. Fans of any music genre will nd something that speaks to them in the pages of this collection.

– Aisha K. Staggers, BookTrib

M. L. Liebler curates an exhaustive collection of essays about Detroit music by a diverse group of music scholars, journalists, and musicians. Instead of relying on familiar narratives about Motown and rock and roll, this anthology engages a vast array of musical genres and sub-genres, while sharing the oft-surprising hidden histories of artists, institutions, and communities integral to Detroit’s unique sound.

– Kimberly Mack, New Books Network

John Sinclair – Timeline


Born October 2 at Women’s Hospital, Flint, Michigan

Parents: John Sr. (Jack) and Elsie Sinclair

Sister Kathleen born 1943, brother David born 1945

Attended Davison Public Schools, Davison, Michigan 1959


Attended Albion College, Albion, Michigan, 1959-61

Attended Flint Junior College, 1961

Attended University of Michigan-Flint College. 1962-64

Editor, The Word, UM–Flint

President, UM—Flint Cinema Guild

Graduated UM-Flint, January 1964, A.B. English Literature


Attended Wayne State University, Detroit, Graduate School of English

Master’s Thesis: William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch

Convicted of Marijuana Possession, Detroit Recorders Court, sentenced to two years probation

Co-Founder & Director, Detroit Artists Workshop

Founder & Director, Detroit LEMAR (Legalize Marijuana)

Editor & Publisher, Artists Workshop Press

Editor & Publisher, Warren-Forest Sun newspaper

Co-Founder & Director, WSU Artists’ Society

Detroit Correspondent, downbeat Magazine, Chicago

Married Magdalene Arndt, June 1965

Berkeley Poetry Conference. Four Young American Poets Reading

Convicted of Marijuana Possession, Detroit Recorders Court, sentenced to three years probation

Prisoner, Detroit House of Correction, February-August 1966

Co-Editor, Guerrilla: A Newspaper of Cultural Revolution, Detroit

Talent Consultant, Grande Ballroom, Detroit

Author, This Is Our Music, Artists Workshop Press

Author, FIRE MUSIC: a record, Artists Workshop Press

Author, The Poem For Warner StringfellowArtists Workshop Press

Author, “A New Song / For A New Year”, Artists Workshop Press Broadside

Author, “Sing The Song”, Artists Workshop Press Broadside

Author, “When A Man / Loves A Woman”, Fenian Head Centre Press Broadside)

Author, “Weathering”, Fenian Head Centre Press Broadside

Editor, Free Poems/Among Friends, Artists Workshop Press

Editor, Detroit Artists’ Worksheet, Artists Workshop Press

Editor (with Robin Eichele), Ten Wayne Poets, Wayne State University

Contributor, Hettie Jones, Editor, Poems NowKulchur Press

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