Guitar Army
John Sinclair
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Buy *Guitar Army: Rock and Revolution with The MC5 and the White Panther Party* by John Sinclair online

Guitar Army: Rock and Revolution with The MC5 and the White Panther Party
John Sinclair
300 pages
May 2007
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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This is the book that, back in 1972, declared "Rock and Roll is a weapon of cultural revolution." Big words meant to convey big ideas. Certainly the speaker, John Sinclair, was looking to stir up emotions, politics, and the world. The author was the leader of the White Panther Party, a far-leftist leaning body politic that sought to change things by bringing together rock music and rock politics.

Sinclair also managed the Detroit-based band the MC5 (Motor City Five), the group that represented his musical voice. In October 1970, the FBI saw the White Panthers as "potentially the largest and most dangerous of revolutionary organizations in the United States." Only three years prior to this, however, John had hosted one of the first Love-Ins on Detroit's Belle Isle, and for that celebration the Detroit News dubbed him the "High Priest of the Detroit Hippies."

In Guitar Army, the author talks about his life and the different perceptions the world had about him. He describes his 1970 arrest, when he was sentenced to a minimum of nine years for giving two marijuana joints to an undercover policeman. This became his platform and his sounding board. Stevie Wonder, Phil Ochs, Allen Ginsberg, and no less than John Lennon came to his aid and demanded his release from prison. A televised benefit concert attended by more than 15,000 people resulted in just that. Sinclair only spent three days behind bars.

This 35th anniversary edition included an 18-track CD with obscure recordings from the MC5 and other Michigan bands. Ginsberg, Black Panther Bobby Seale and others are also included on this bonus disc. Additionally, there are 40 new photographs.

It was a time and place that has long since disappeared. But reading this transports you back three and a half decades, when music and belief truly did have the power to cause change.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2008

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