Introduction by Amiri Baraka
JOHN SINCLAIR: FATTENING FROGS FOR SNAKES
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
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
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.
— AMIRI BARAKA