Wednesday, June 9, 2010

DETROIT LIFE LINER NOTES by John Sinclair

DETROIT LIFE LINER NOTES by John Sinclair

October 22nd, 2009 by johnsinclair

DETROIT LIFE
JOHN SINCLAIR & HIS MOTOR CITY BLUES SCHOLARS

No Cover CD

[01] “The Screamers” (John Sinclair/arr. Charles Moore) (4:23)

[02] “let’s call this” (John Sinclair/Thelonious Monk) (3:28)

[03] “april in paris” (John Sinclair/arr. Johnny Evans) (3:36)

[04] “light blue” (John Sinclair/Thelonious Monk) (2:47)

[05] “monk’s dream” (John Sinclair/Thelonious Monk) (5:41)

[06] “Hold Your Horn High” (John Sinclair/Jeff Grand) (6:04)

[07] “suburban eyes” (John Sinclair/Johnny Evans) (4:44)

[08] “all alone” > “(just one way to say) I love you” (5:23)

(John Sinclair/Johnnie Bassett-Phillip J. Hale)

[09] “i’ll follow you” John Sinclair/Phillip J. Hale) (2:49)

[10] “The Street Beat” (John Sinclair/Michael Voelker) (3:37)

[11] “Walking on a Tightrope” (John Sinclair/Jeff Grand) (5:52)

[12] “bags’ groove” (John Sinclair/Thelonious Monk) (6:44)

[13] “My Buddy” [“Djarum”] (John Sinclair/Lyman Woodard) (6:50)

[14] “nutty” (John Sinclair/Thelonious Monk) (7:29)

[15] “That’s All” (3:29) (John Sinclair/Johnnie Bassett-Duncan McMillan-Martin Gross)

All selections published by Pretty Big Chief Music (ASCAP)
except music for [2][4][5][12][14] Thelonious Music (BMI)

PRODUCED BY JOHN SINCLAIR

Recorded by Mike Boulan at the Jazz Loft, Detroit and Straight Ahead Studio, Oak Park, April 2008. Remixed by Phil Hale & Mike Boulan with Holice P. Wood at Straight Ahead, July 2008
Mastered by Mike Boulan at Straight Ahead, February 2009
Project Coordinator: Holice P. Woods
Production Associate: Adam Brook
Cover photo of Charles Moore & John Sinclair by Leni Sinclair © 1965
Cover Design by Celia Sinclair

©(p) 2009 John Sinclair
CD ©(p) 2009 No Cover Records

DETROIT LIFE
By John Sinclair

Life in Detroit has been framed and regulated by the exigencies of the automobile
industry for an entire century. The first 50 years saw the city grow into a booming
manufacturing center with jobs for all and home ownership a way of life for 70% of the
citizenry. But since the 1950s the powers that be have focused on moving the plants
and their Caucasian workforce out of the city and into the surrounding suburbs,
draining the City of Detroit of its tax base, stripping its civic resources and leaving
behind the fabulous ruins of this once-great metropolis to be negotiated by the
800,000 black people who live here with precious few visible means of support.

Detroit life now is a difficult proposition for the urban inhabitant, but the sharpened
street-level intelligence and boundless hunger for knowledge and meaning generated
by the struggle for simple survival have helped shape an effective way of day-to-day
dealing with the dilapidated environs of the former Motor City and coming through
relentless adversity with one’s humanity miraculously intact and one’s creative potential
fully actualized.

Life in the ruins of modern-day Detroit is not for the weak-minded nor the faint of
heart. Living here demands a level of awareness and tenacity well beyond that required
for regular American life, and the people who are able to survive in this city without jobs
and manage to develop their human and creative potential despite the customary lack of
recognition or material reward are special people indeed. But they’ve been coping with
the ugly realities of life in Detroit for a long time, and they’ve learned how to make
things work for themselves in very creative ways.

The mass exodus of the white people began 60 years ago when the first freeways were
dug and the first modern suburbs were developed around the first of the sprawling
shopping malls. Twenty years later the outward momentum moved into high gear
following the July Rebellion of 1968, and by the time the auto industry collapsed and the
city elected its first black mayor in the mid-’70s, a million white people had been safely
removed and their former homes and businesses in the city literally abandoned by the
thousands.

The tide of white Detroiters streaming outward from the city throughout the ’60s was
countered only by a small trickle of young white Americans who were drawn to the
collapsing city center by the possibility of making some kind of life irrespective of the
Caucasian paradigm that would allow them to pursue their personal artistic and social
visions and sustain themselves without having a real job by taking advantage of the low
rents and relatively unregulated social life of the deconstructed metropolis.
The bohemian influx into Detroit centered on the Wayne State University campus and
the surrounding neighborhoods. Here the young urbanites took rooms in funky old
apartment buildings and rented for a song substantial old houses and workplaces the
previous generation had been so eager to leave behind due to their proximity to the
nearby dwellings of the dread people of color.

The bohemians fit right in to their new urban environs. Essentially open-minded and
free-spirited in their social relations, these artists, poets, musicians and other seekers
of authentic creative experience refused to be crippled by the racism and sexual
repression practiced by their forebears and instead embraced the concepts of racial
equality, peace not war, social and economic justice and personal freedom to live as
they pleased without exploiting or oppressing fellow human beings.

Among the few white Americans in the northern United States who made actual physical
and social contact with the black inhabitants of the city centers, the bohemian sector in
Detroit quickly learned that racism was pretty much a one-way street and soon found its
denizens forming fast friendships and strong working relationships with the people
around them. In the bohemian art world people were judged and deemed worthy on the
basis of the quality of their work and the nature of their personalities, the exact criteria
almost universally applied throughout African America, so it was easy to begin to see
eye to eye as fellow humans and coexist in unaccustomed peace and harmony.

This was a new Detroit life that took root amid the ruins in the 1960s and began to
blossom after the 1968 Rebellion, certainly never part of the official narrative but a
certain reality for everyone who lived it and loved it and took sustenance from it every
day of their lives. Bohemian Detroit, underground Detroit, inter-racial Detroit, a place
where you can do what you want to with anyone who would do it with you and the
creative possibilities are as vast as you can make them.

This is the Detroit life I know and love, from my initial residency in the city between
1964-1968, and then from 1975-1991, and now every time I come back to visit my
daughter and granddaughter and my hundreds of friends in the Motor City and play
some shows with Jeff Grand and my band, the Motor City Blues Scholars.

Over the years I’ve composed any number of poems that commemorate and pay homage
to different aspects of this Detroit life of ours, and I’ve performed them (and many
others) with scores of Detroit musicians since I started setting my verses to music in the
summer of 1964. Now, 44 years later, I wanted to put them all together and record them
with the musicians I know and love and work with in the Motor City, and this album is
the result.

I was living with Charles Moore in a basement apartment in the Forest Arms at 2nd &
Forest and writing some of the first poems I wanted to keep when he asked me if I’d
ever thought of setting my verses to music and performing them with a band. When we
opened the Detroit Artists Workshop at 1252 West Forest in November and then
established the WSU Artists Society to gain access to campus venues like DeRoy
Auditorium, Community Arts and Mackenzie Hall for the presentations of jazz and
poetry we had developed at the Workshop, Charles invited me to perform several of my
poems with his ensemble, the Detroit Contemporary 5, with Ron English on guitar, Larry
Nozero on tenor saxophone, John Dana on bass, and Danny Spencer on drums.

I performed my poetry with Charles Moore and his ensembles over the next couple of
years, but when I started managing the MC-5 in the fall of 1967 and embraced the life
of a cultural and, later, radical political activist, my work in poetry was suspended for
what turned out to be the next 15 years while I wrote polemics, propaganda, press
releases, underground newspaper columns, and later proposals for arts projects and
grant applications for jazz artists in Detroit.

I started writing poetry again in the spring of 1982, soon undertaking the composition
of an elongated jazz work in verse centered on the music, life, times and impact of
Thelonious Monk and starting work on a book of blues verse focused on the music and
culture of the Mississippi Delta. This time around the first thing I wanted to do was set
the new poems to music and perform them with first-rate musicians so I could hear
them—and present them to my listeners—the way they’d sounded in my head while I
was writing them.

By the end of the year I’d organized my first band of Blues Scholars with “Showtime”
Johnny Evans on tenor sax, Rick Steiger on baritone saxophone, James O’Donnell on
trumpet, Martin Gross on drums and R.J. Spangler on congas & percussions to play a
concert at Paul Lichter’s legendary Maximus & Company bookstore in Birmingham on
January 2, 1983.

That was 25 years ago and I’ve been doing the same thing ever since. The original Blues
Scholars—named in honor of Professor Longhair’s great bands from New Orleans—grew
to include young musicians like John “T-Bone” Paxton on trombone, Ron “Big Red”
Redman on tenor, Jeff Grand on guitar, Chris Rumel on bass, the great Phil Hale on
keyboards, and a host of guest players from earlier incarnations like Lyman Woodard,
Danny Spencer, Wayne Kramer and Charles Moore.

After I moved to New Orleans in 1991 I formed a new edition of the Blues Scholars with
guitarist Phil DeVille, drummer Michael Voelker and a horn section led by Michael Ray.
My old pal from the Mojo Boogie Band in Ann Arbor, Bill Lynn, moved to New Orleans
and came in on guitar, and for almost 10 years Bill and Mike Voelker and I worked
together to develop the Blues Scholars repertoire by devising appropriate musical
settings for my poems and performing them anywhere in New Orleans people would
have us.

When I started my travels as a performer in the mid-1990s I would work with musicians
wherever I went who could do justice to the Blues Scholars book, but the best times
musically were always when I returned to Detroit and got together with Showtime, Tino,
Jeff Grand and Chris Rumel to play some shows around town. In the present period
we’ve added Phil Hale on keyboards whenever we could, and the band would sound
better than ever.

In the course of my recording career I’ve made albums with Ed Moss & the Society Jazz
Orchestra of Cincinnati, the Boston Blues Scholars with Ted Drozdowski, the Los Angeles
edition with Wayne Kramer & Charles Moore, the Dutch rappers Langefrans & Baas B, the
Blues Scholars in Oxford and Clarksdale, Mississippi, and the New Orleans band of Blues
Scholars, but never with the cats from Detroit I’d started out with and still played with
every time I was in the Motor City.

Early this past spring when I was staying in Detroit with my pal Holice P. Woods, it
dawned on me one night that this discrepancy was now a quarter of a century in
duration and demanded to be addressed at once. I gathered together all my poems with
Detroit in them and decided which ones would go in the album and roughly in what
order, and then Hollywood and I smoked over the concept for a while and he bravely
volunteered to help me put the project together and make it happen when I returned to
Detroit in April.

Holice did a beautiful job from beginning to end, setting up the recording sessions with
Mike Boulan of No Cover Records and drawing together all the musical participants to
join in at the right times. The basic band was Showtime, Tino, Phil Hale, Jeff Grand and
Chris Rumel, with James O’Donnell’s trumpet added later. I made two numbers with R.J.
Spangler on drums, Phil Hale and the great Johnnie Bassett on guitar, and Hollywood
persuaded Johnnie to add a guitar solo to “let’s call this” and lead the final number,
“That’s All,” with Duncan McMillan on organ. Thornetta Davis added a brilliant vocal
background to “Hold Your Horn High,” and I recorded “bags’ groove” with Milton and
Phil Hale and their bassist, Ibrahim Jones, at the Jazz Loft where I’d starting writing it at
one of their Monday night sessions earlier in the year.

Mike Boulan was a joy to work with in every situation and never once brought up the
question of compensation. In fact, and I don’t want to embarrass these top-notch
professional musicians by saying so, but this entire project was accomplished entirely
without funds—everybody gave everything they were asked for out of love and affection
and we made something happen that turned out to be quite a beautiful thing.

Most of our recording was done at the Jazz Loft in Greektown, where we cut on a couple
of nights and all afternoon and evening one day to get most of the tracks the way we
wanted them. We finished up with a session at No Cover where my old friend Lyman
Woodard came in on the Hammond B-3 organ and the entire horn section joined us for
the definitive version of my poem from 1965, “The Screamers.” Then we made “nutty”
with Woodard, my poem for the Forest Arms that I’d just finished in time for the
recording sessions.

When I think of Detroit Life, these are the people I think of, these musicians and the
people like them who make their art and their lives in the wilds of the former Motor City
and live to tell the story. These people and the ones who used to be here with us, and
the ones who showed us the way, and the young Detroiters who are coming up now
within the venerable bohemian tradition, and all the people who have survived and
sustained themselves as the city collapsed and rotted all around them.

These poems came out of my life in Detroit and have now been fully realized with the
help of all the people in Detroit who made this album happen. The titles printed in lower
case are taken from my book in progress called always know: a book of monk and we
used Monk’s music whenever we could.

This is my Detroit Life. I hope it brings you as much pleasure in listening to it as we took from putting it together.

—Amsterdam
September 24-25, 2008

NOTES ON THE TEXTS & THE MUSIC

[01] “The Screamers” (John Sinclair/arr. Charles Moore)
I wrote “the Screamers” in March 1965 when I lived at 4825 John C. Lodge after getting
high with Kenny Schooner one day and listening to a lot of rhythm & blues records with
him that I’d pretty much forgotten about since I had embraced the modern jazz idiom in
the fall of 1959. The title and central image comes from LeRoi Jones’s story called
“Screamers” that was set in a theater in Newark in the early 1950s at a Lynn Hope
concert when the crowd went wild. The poem has quotes from and/or allusions to
“The Screamers” was among the first poems I performed with Charles Moore & the
Detroit Contemporary 4 in 1965 and I still use Charles’s arrangement based on “Green
Onions,” a song I used to hear at the El Toro Lounge in Flint, Michigan in 1962 as played
by the Oscar Bishop Trio with my roommate at the time, Lyman Woodard on the
Hammond B-3 organ. Now, 46 years later, I’ve got Woodard on organ for this recording,
Jeff Grand on slide guitar, Tino on drums, Chris Rumel on bass, and a full horn section
with Johnny Evans, James O’Donnell, Rick Steiger on bari and T-Bone Paxton on
trombone, recorded at the No Cover Studio.

[02] “let’s call this” (John Sinclair/Thelonious Monk)

This is the first of several selections on the album taken from my elongated jazz work in
verse called always know: a book of monk. I wrote this poem after Opening Day at
Tiger Stadium in 1982 when Jayne Cortez appeared that night at the Detroit Institute of
Arts and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown was at the Soup Kitchen. Johnny Evans & Tino & I
used to introduce this text with “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” segueing into the Monk
composition “Let’s Call This.” Showtime leads the band through this version from the
tenor saxophone, with Phil Hale on keys & Tino on drums, recorded at the Jazz Loft in
Greektown, with James O’Donnell’s trumpet and the Johnnie Bassett guitar solo added at
No Cover.

[03] “april in paris” (John Sinclair/arr. Johnny Evans)

This poem was composed in 1984 when I was living on the east side of Detroit and is
dedicated to my old friend, the poet George Tysh, in honor of his residency in Paris after
he left Detroit in 1965. The text goes with Monk’s version of “April in Paris” on Blue
Note and Johnny Evans adds his own little twist to this version. The text refers to the
genius readings of the song by Monk, Bird with strings, “& the Wild Bill Davis
arrangement by Basie” with the famous false endings and the hollers of “Let’s hear it
one more time” and “Let’s hear it one more once.” Recorded at the Jazz Loft with
Showtime, Phil Hale, Chris Rumel, Tino, and James O’Donnell added at No Cover.

[04] “light blue” (John Sinclair/Thelonious Monk)

This poem is set to the lovely Monk tune that inspired this piece when I was living on
Courville off of West Warren on the far east side of Detroit. It’s dedicated to my step-
daughters, Kris Tyson & Chonita Robinson. Johnnie Bassett’s guitar really makes it sing,
with Phil Hale on keys and R.J. Spangler on drums, recorded at the Jazz Loft.

[05] “monk’s dream” (John Sinclair/Thelonious Monk)

One day in the spring of 1988 when I was living in a 3rd-floor loft in the Merchants
Apparel Building at Broadway & Grand River behind Harmonie Park I got a phone call
from my pal, the great artist Tyree Guyton. He said he had completed the initial
installation of his Heidelberg Project on the east side of Detroit and was ready to present
it to the public. “All I need now is some music & poetry,” he said. I told him it would be
taken care of by the opening date. I wrote this poem inspired by Monk’s original
Prestige trio recording from 1953 and thinking of his quartet version with Charlie Rouse
on Columbia Records because the Heidelberg project looked to me like something that
would have come to Monk in a dream, and one day I was over there talking to Tyree and
we actually heard some music by Monk coming out of the little radio on the roof on the
house that Tyree had transformed next door. I played the poem with Showtime on tenor
and Tino on drums at the opening of the Heidelberg Project, and they’re here with Phil
Hale on keys and Chris Rumel plays Thelonious Monk!

[06] “Hold Your Horn High” (John Sinclair/Jeff Grand)

This is a poem for my late friend and tenor player Ron Gulyas of Lansing, Michigan, also
known locally as Ron Redman and, more often, as Big Red. We worked together many
times in the 1980s: as a duet, in a trio with Danny Spencer, and in a great quartet with
Lyman Woodard on B-3, Tino on drums, Showtime & Big Red on tenors. We opened for
Jayne Cortez & the Firespitters at St. Andrews Hall one time and enjoyed one of my
favorite performances of all time.

When Red passed away in December 2005 I was broken-hearted at the loss of this great
character and one day while I was having my morning coffee at the Dolphins coffeeshop
in Amsterdam I had a vision of Big Red in the batting cage and wrote this poem. We
performed it with the Blues Scholars at the Detroit Jazz Festival in 2006 to Jeff Grand’s
beautiful gospel composition with Dr. Dorothy Goodman singing behind me. We
recorded this version at the Jazz Loft with Jeff Grand on guitar Johnny Evans on tenor
saxophone; Phil Hale at the keyboards and Martin Gross on drums. Jeff added some
more guitar at No Cover and one of my favorite human beings, the magnificent
Thornetta Davis, came in to make the background vocal for me. The title was inspired by
the way Dexter Gordon used to hold his horn high when acknowledging the applause at
the end of his shows and was taken from the notebooks of Jack Kerouac who meant to
use it for the name of a book of poems that never materialized.

[07] “suburban eyes” (John Sinclair/Johnny Evans)

This poem tried to summarize my emotional experience while living with a woman
named Mary in Oak Park for a few months in 1984. It was written after Mary put us out
and I was living with my two daughters in a little house in the funky part of Oak Park so
Sunny & Celia could finish the semester at Oak Park High School & just before we moved
back into the city on the far east side. Johnny Evans & Tino were there when all this was
happening and they’re here to make the poem happen for this album, set
to music by Showtime and featuring his tenor saxophone throughout, with Phil Hale’s
keys, Chris Rumel’s bass and Tino on drums, recorded at the Jazz Loft.

[08] “all alone” > “(just one way to say) i love you” (John Sinclair/Johnnie Bassett)

I wrote “all alone” one night in my loft at Grand River & Broadway during one of the
several serious estrangements from my wife Penny we suffered before we were finally
married on January 1, 1989 in the Broadway Gallery on the ground floor of our building.
I was getting blasted listening to Famous Coachman transform himself into Brother
Coachman as his program on WDET-FM switched at 4:30 am from Blues to Music With A
Message. The second poem was composed at the same location and under similar
conditions on the night before our wedding and was completed in time to be delivered
from the altar as part of the official ceremony conducted by Sister Genie Parker under
the auspices of the Universal Life Church. I had recorded the two poems in tandem with
Mark Ritsema in 2005 for our album criss cross and followed that pattern here with a
perfect musical setting created by Johnnie Bassett and Phil Hale with R.J. Spangler on
drums, recorded at the Jazz Loft.

[09] “i’ll follow you” (John Sinclair/Phil Hale)

My wife Penny and I left Detroit in July 1991 and lived in New Orleans for 12 years. In
2003 we decided to try to resettle in Amsterdam and she came back to Detroit while I
was trying to make a place for us to live in Amsterdam. She wasn’t happy there when
she came to visit me and when I came to Detroit in July 2005 to spend some time with
her, she gently rejected my advances and said there would be no romance, and then left.
That was the end of a love affair that began in 1979, and out of my gloom & depression
I composed this poem written to the last song Monk recorded for Blue Note in 1952, “I’ll
Follow You.” Phil Hale gave me the music for this reading and plays keys, with
Showtime, Tino and Chris Rumel at the Jazz Loft.

[10] “The Street Beat” (John Sinclair/Michael Voelker)

This poem was composed as an obituary for the great Detroit drummer James Charles
Heard and printed in the City Arts Quarterly published by the City of Detroit Council of
the Arts which I served as editor during 1988-91. Musically it was inspired by the song
of the same name recorded by J.C. Heard with Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, and the Sir
Charles Thompson All Stars for Apollo Records in 1945. I recorded the piece with Wayne
Kramer & my New Orleans drummer Michael Voelker in Los Angeles for my album Full
Circle and used Mike’s arrangement here, with Martin Gross filling the drum chair, Phil
Hale, Chris Rumel and Showtime Johnny Evans at the Jazz Loft.

[11] “Walking on a Tightrope” (John Sinclair/Jeff Grand)

This poem popped out very late one night after Penny & I returned from the mission of
mercy described therein to our loft at Grand River & Broadway. The protoganist,
identified here as “West Side Larry C.” is the Detroit poet & master percussionist Sadiq
Muhammad, and the poem is named after a Percy Mayfield composition and inspired by
the Johnny Adams on his Rounder album of the same name. The text is set to a “slow
power blues from the east side of Detroit” by Jeff Grand with Showtime, Tino and Phil
Hale at the Jazz Loft.

[12] “bags’ groove” (John Sinclair/Milt Jackson)

I started making notes for this poem one Monday night this past spring sitting in the
Jazz Loft in Greektown listening to Milton & Phil Hale and their musical guests and
thinking of all the great music and musicians to come out of Detroit. The poem turned
into an elongated litany of notable Detroit jazz musicians and if I’ve left people out it
hasn’t been on purpose and I intend to keep making corrections until I get it right. I
finished the poem in time for the recording session and cut it during the Monday night
Milton Show at the Jazz Loft with Milton Hale on drums, Phil Hale on keys and their
bassist, Ibraheem Jones, and added the horns by Showtime and James O’Donnell at No
Cover.

[13] “My Buddy” (John Sinclair/Lyman Woodard)

In January 1979 I was living at 689 Virginia Park and working out of the Strata Building
at 46 Selden when Henry Normile, Lyman Woodard, Marcus Belgrave and I formed
Corridor Records and undertook the production of our first album, Don’t Stop the
Groove by the Lyman Woodard Organization with special guest Marcus Belgrave,
recorded “live” at Cobb’s Corner at Cass & Willis on the last weekend in January. Henry
was the proprietor of the club with his brother Howard and the M.C. for the first night of
the recording sessions, but early the following evening as I was on my way to his place
to listen to the tapes from Friday night and get ready for the second recording session
to come that night, Henry was brutally murdered in his apartment next door to the bar.
As I walked up to his front door on Willis it swung open and a team of EMTs was
wheeling Henry on a gurney into the ambulance parked outside. He was dead on arrival
at Receiving Hospital downtown. His killer has never been identified. Woodard, Belgrave
and I decided to complete the project as a tribute to our beloved comrade and went
ahead with the recordings scheduled for Saturday night. Lyman produced the album and
issued it on Corridor Records, which became his own imprint after Henry’s death.

One of Lyman’s compositions for the album was a beautiful ballad titled “Djarum” after
the funny little clove cigarettes Henry used to like to smoke. I wanted to get Woodard to
lead the Blues Scholars through “Djarum” as the music for this poem with Marcus
Belgrave on trumpet and a big horn arrangement, but when I suggested it at the session
Lyman backed away, threw his hands up and said he didn’t want to go there.

A few hours later my phone rang and Woodard was calling from his home in Owosso,
west of Flint. He was still thinking about my request and said, “John, why don’t you just
use the original recording from Cobb’s Corner and read the poem over it?” I practiced it
a couple of times and got the poem to fit the arrangement perfectly, then Mike Boulan
transferred the tune from Woodard’s CD and we made this recording, adding Henry’s
voice from the stage at Cobb’s Corner the night before his death at the beginning and
end of the track. My buddy!

I wrote this poem one night in New Orleans while I was at the Snug Harbor on
Frenchmens Street to hear Walter “Wolfman” Washington. I was sitting in the balcony and
when Wolf went on break the sound system was playing Dr. John singing “My Buddy,”
and right there and then at my table I had a visitation from the spirit of Henry Normile,
who kind of descended from above and hovered across the table from me with an
immense smile on his face. We beamed at one another for some long moments and then
he was gone, but I could still see his “angelic face” and commenced the composition of
this poem right there.

The text is centered on something Henry told me one day in 1978 after he’d completed
an interview I’d set up for him with a woman reporter from the Detroit News and he was
worried if he’d gotten himself in trouble when she asked him about his belief system
and he said he believed in “cocaine, pussy and lobster”—“in that order,” he pointed out
to me. I told him I didn’t think he’d have to worry about that being quoted in the News,
but now I’ve gotten it into the poem I wrote in his honor and I think I’ve finally put my
buddy away in proper style. He and Lyman and I were the closest of friends and we’re all
here together now 30 years later.

[14] “nutty” (John Sinclair/Thelonious Monk)

I composed this poem to the Thelonious Monk composition “Nutty” with the text
centered on the burning of the Forest Arms Apartments at 2nd & Forest and the loss of
Brad Hales’ People’s Records and David & Hali Ampersands’ Amsterdam Espresso
Coffeehouse housed on the ground floor of the building, which was my first residence in
Detroit when I moved here in the spring of 1964 to start my classes at WSU seeking a
Master’s degree in American Literature. I rented the basement apartment on the south
end of the building, #B-2, and lived there for my first few months in Detroit, first taking
in the poet & anarchist Allen Van Newkirk and then, after Allen split for New York City,
the trumpet player and philosopher Charles Moore, who lived with me for the next two
years. In recent years, after the Amsterdam Espresso opened, the Forest Arms became
my base of daily operations in Detroit and I would often visit my pal Brad Hales at his
incredible little record shop on the Forest Avenue side of the building. It broke my heart
to lose this important personal landmark and convenient Detroit hangout and I wanted
to make a poem about the place that would commemorate the building and that key
period in my personal development. Lyman Woodard leads the band from the Hammond
B-3, with Johnny Evans, James O’Donnell, and Martin Gross at No Cover Studio.

[15] “That’s All” (John Sinclair/Johnnie Bassett-Duncan McMillan-Martin Gross)

I wrote this poem the day after his death as a tribute to the great Detroit jazz vocalist
Dave Wilborn when he passed away on stage at the end of a performance. I had written a
long poem called “If I Could Be With You” in honor of Dave’s old band, McKinney’s
Cotton Pickers, and added this little paean to Mr. Dave after his demise. I wanted it to be
the final number on the album and Tino said, “We haven’t done any funk numbers yet,”
so he and Johnnie Bassett and Duncan McMillan on the Hammond B-3 improvised the
music behind me at No Cover to close out the album and complete the DETROIT LIFE
project.


—London, March 7 >
Amsterdam, March 16-17 >
Lille, France, March 22 >
Amsterdam, March 24-25 >
Detroit, April 3 > 10, 2009

© 2009 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.

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