The Day John Lennon Came To Michigan
That December day in 1971 when John Lennon came to Ann Arbor was his own idea…he wasn’t invited, but took it upon himself to come and perform.
The reason? John had heard about the plight of John Sinclair. Sinclair was chairman of the Rainbow People’s Party of Ann Arbor and was serving an unjust ten years in Jackson State Prison for possession of two marijuana joints. The People’s Party did their best to bring attention to their cause by holding concerts, benefits, and rallies, and they even got a handful of celebrities involved, like actor Donald Sutherland, Jane Fonda, and others. After Yippie activist Jerry Rubin told Lennon about an upcoming December 10 rally for Sinclair, Lennon took the ball and ran. He wrote a song about Sinclair that can be found on his Sometime in New York City album.
The rally was to be held at UM’s Crisler Arena, and Lennon said he would donate his performance fee to the John Sinclair Freedom Fund.
Two days before the concert, a press conference was held, where any skepticisms were dashed whether Lennon would appear. A recording was played for the press with John Lennon saying “Hello, this is John with Yoko here. I just want to say we’re coming along to the John Sinclair bust fund rally to say hello. I won’t be bringing a band or nothing like that because I’m only here as a tourist, but I’ll probably fetch me guitar, and I know we have a song that we wrote for John. So that’s that.”
The rally went on as planned, selling out the arena. Along with John & Yoko were plenty of other speakers and performers, including Bob Seger, Commander Cody, and a surprise appearance by Stevie Wonder. Aside from his music, Stevie got the crowd on his feet when he stated, “We are in a very troublesome time today in the world. A time in which a man can get 12 years in prison for possession of marijuana, and another who can kill four students at Kent State and come out free.”
The crowd wasn’t too impressed with Lennon’s 15-minute 3am performance, as he sang unplugged, and the four songs he sang were new ones that weren’t familiar to anyone yet: “John Sinclair”, “Attica State”, “Sisters O Sisters”, and “Luck Of The Irish”.
Three days later, Sinclair was released from prison.
Not long after this event, Lennon stayed away from anymore political activism, due to the FBI now having him under surveillance.
As Lennon said when he stood onstage at Crisler Arena in 1971, “We came here…..to say to all of you that apathy isn’t it, and that we can do something. OK, so flower power didn’t work. So what? We start again.”
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