HI, this is Steve the fly writing you from Amsterdam, in celebration of the 15th anniversary of Radio Free Amsterdam. Founded on November 22nd, 2004, RFA has kept the blues, jazz and roots music alive, thanks to John’s heroic efforts to keep it all going, editing the shows, posting them.
In 2019, the people within the state of Michigan clearly voted to legalize, and free the weed. Finally, after more than 50 years of campaigning local activists can pin this one up as a win. A victory in the perpetual war on (some) drugs. However, the cultural-political battle over cannabis continues, and thankfully John has joined with attorney Matt Abel, and others of the Cannabis Council, who are fighting the good fight for a fairer and more equal society boosted by cannabis, and all its beneficial qualities, personal and social. Justice!
There from the beginning, John rolled with the vanguard of artists and cultural organizers who included the liberation of Cannabis in their bold vision for a better world. John currently lives and works in Detroit, enjoying the myriad of benefits from the herb that he helped contextualize, celebrate and liberate. We have come full circle, John and his fellow pot activists are vindicated and perhaps we should pause for a moment to consider all those who risked life, and love to stand up to authority, and fight for the freedom of others to enjoy what they enjoy.
John and friends organized the Michigan chapter of LEMAR, (LEgalize MARijuana), a network including Allen Ginsberg, Ed Sanders and other legendary poet provocateurs. (Poetcateurs?) LEMAR was the precursor to today’s organization NORML, and the steady flow of movements across the world that campaigned and organized in different ways, toward the common goal of legalization of the healing herb.
If you missed the story of John’s set-up and bust and the campaign to free him, building up to the legendary John Sinclair Freedom Rally, you can get the full picture from the documentary movie: 20 to life: The Life And Times Of John Sinclair. As a side-effect of John’s freedom came the added benefit of less harsh punishments for Marijuana possession in Michigan, effectively a ticket and/or fine. The recent decision to legalize cannabis in the state stands as evidence that activists and artists who promoted the virtues of the plant, and art, were justified and correct. Before their time, in some sense prophets of the new cannabis age. Coupled with state of the art music, poetry, painting, activism and the cannabis sacrament, these brave men and women affected a cultural shift in the collective consciousness of the whole fucking planet.
Together with his contemporaries, John set the scene, built the soundtrack, and floats within the cosmic ambience everywhere and anywhere…cannabis is consumed. Ingrained deep into the tissue and the foundational roots of American, and by osmosis, world cannabis culture. The measure of which remains elusive, but in my view terribly under-acknowledged, you have to dig for it.
I’ve worked for 8 years at a busy cannabis coffeeshop in the centre of Amsterdam and witnessed first hand what the blueprint for a John Sinclair coffeeshop would be. The combination of good music, a selection of refreshments including coffee and tea, and a steady flow of international cannabis enthusiasts dropping in to sample the menu, get high and soak up the vibe. A modest example of music, cannabis and the open society in unity, a safe space to help heal the individual and societal divides. Coffeeshops bring people together and present the common ground needed for such healing.
I’ve heard John express feelings about the power of music and art and listened to the evidence of those statements, read the textual evidence, admittedly produced with the influence of cannabis in one form or another. His work makes for a continuous explicit demonstration, celebrating the health packed herb via the culture of art and activism surrounding it.
John agitated on behalf of the cannabis legalization movement by excelling in the face of adversity, obsoleting the opposition with superior intelligence: poetry, improvisational jazz, rock and roll music, art all born of experiment and a kind of autodidactic approach. To cut your own path, and offer the others a route out of the depressingly violent, dumb, and watered-down mainstream culture.
His work spans the underground like a system of rivers deep beneath the surface, before everything was splattered across so-called social media, and available at the swipe of a finger, back when movements of a few dedicated people impacted the greater society and a global culture: the beat movements, the Lower East Side collectives, the Black Arts Movement, the Black Mountain Arts movement, The Underground Press, Love-In’s, Be-In’s, the Detroit Artists Workshop etc.
From my own limited study of these movements, most but not all guided by John and his rich literary taste buds, I’d like to draw attention to how they synthesize international cultural elements into a dazzling display of new art/activism. From beat writers sucking up Hindu and Indian scripture, Chinese poets, African rituals and rhythms, to John Coltrane and hundreds of Jazz innovators synthesizing traditional music from India, Africa and Asia into new forms, new directions, new harmonics.
Alike the history of the Cannabis plant and Cannabis culture, the story includes India, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and Indonesia. A mighty juxtaposition of world culture, through the lens of jazz and blues music, beat poetry, street-level intellectualism. John is a walking encyclopedia of these global influences and movements, native histories, traditions, rebellions, poetic tongues, swirling within the hologrammic field of his lifework, simultaneously blooming, bloomdido, bloomdido.
Good music, to me, like art and literature, and cannabis culture, seems to stem from a wide array of influences, John curates his musical offerings on his radio shows, in a similar fashion to how his writing curates his experiences. The challenges of how to make it new, while showing origins, and providing standards by which to interpret, both historically and aesthetically, the new creation, are satisfied by John’s excellent curation.
Every town, city and village worldwide should enjoy the benefits of a relaxing space to enjoy a little cannabis, listen to some music, read, leave your political differences at the door and experience the vibe and do easy. Music is the message, cannabis is in the message, and the message is the message too.
Please tune into www.radiofreeamsterdam.org and lock into John’s own radio shows, plus his curation of shows by DJ’s within the jazz, blues, soul, funk, reefer zone. Including your humble author. Grow some new ears.
The John Sinclair Foundation acts as a repository for writings, music, film, devoted to the proper archiving and administration of these works. The foundation is set up to include ongoing projects such as Radio Free Amsterdam, organize workshops, performances, recordings and publications. The JSF provides a blueprint and strategy for the realization of John’s collectivist vision, practical plans for a future full with creativity, tolerance and excellence.
“Won’t you care for John Sinclair?”–John Lennon.
Track down John’s “Free The Weed” Columns
Listen to his Radio Show’s, he’s kicking em’ out for you!
love, steve the fly.
Radio Free Amsterdam.