Wayne Kramer, founder of the legendary Detroit proto-punk band, was one of rock’s greatest guitarists.
Wayne Kramer, founding member of legendary Detroit proto-punk band MC5 and one of rock’s greatest guitarists, has died at the age of 75.
The death of the singer-songwriter and activist was announced on Friday via his official social media accounts. Kramer died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles from pancreatic cancer, told Billboard Jason Heath, executive director of the artist’s nonprofit, Jail Guitar Doors.
Formed in Detroit in the mid-1960s, MC5 (short for Motor City Five) first became known as the group featured in left-wing rallies in the city at the time. After performing before the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, Kramer and his bandmates returned to Detroit in October of that year to record what would become their landmark album, The Live Kick Out the Jams.
Although the band didn’t last long (they only released two studio albums, Back in the USA in 1970 and High Time in 1971, before separating); MC5 had a lasting impact on what would become punk rock, both through its overtly political lyrics and the explosive riffs of the Kramer/Smith tandem.
After the demise of the MC5, Kramer remained in Detroit and, while remaining musically active, got into trouble with the law. In 1975, he was arrested for selling drugs to an undercover police officer, earning him a four-year prison sentence. Although he was released in 1979, the experience left an indelible mark on him and he would later found the non-profit Jail Guitar Doors, becoming its executive director. Named after the Clash song inspired by Kramer’s experiences, the charity provides musical instruments to incarcerated people to rehabilitate them. thanks to the transformative power of music “.
“ In the end, (prison) may have saved my life, because I was navigating a very dangerous world in Detroit, at the height of my drinking and drug useKramer told WECB in 2014. But I don’t think prison helped me. Prison doesn’t help anyone, given the way we approach punishment in America. »
Throughout the 1980s, Kramer worked with artists far and wide, including Was (Not Was) and Johnny Thunders. However, in the 1990s, the legions of punk bands who were indebted to Kramer and the MC5 began to show their appreciation, and Kramer eventually signed with the famous punk label Epitaph Records to begin his solo career in earnest.
Kramer’s first album on this label, The Hard Stuff, was released in 1995, featuring guests like the Melvins, drummer Josh Freese, Black Flag/Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris, Bad Religion’s Brett Gurewitz, and more.
Mr. Kramer also remained politically active in subsequent decades, performing with Rage Against the Machine at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in 2008 (a show that mirrored the MC5 concert 40 years earlier) and performing concerts in support of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
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“ Brother Wayne Kramer was the best man I ever knewRage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello wrote on social media Friday. He possessed a unique blend of profound wisdom and compassion, beautiful empathy and tenacious conviction. His band, the MC5, practically invented punk rock music and was the only band to not chicken out and play for the protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. I’m pretty sure every album I’ve ever been on worked, the fastest and rawest track had the working title “MC5” (“Sleep Now In The Fire” For example). Wayne went through personal trials with drugs and prison (the Clash song “Jail Guitar Doors” was written about Wayne) and emerged transformed, saving countless lives through his tireless acts of service. »
“ My life before wasn’t boring, and my life today isn’t boring either.Kramer told WECB in 1998. I’m motivated by the sheer terror of being an elderly person with no money and no health insurance, and finding myself homeless and sick. It’s what gets me out of bed and motivates me to write new songs and move forward. It’s not fun, it’s serious. »
Last year, Kramer announced the upcoming release of Heavy Liftingthe first MC5 album since High Time (1971), featuring original drummer Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson alongside Tom Morello, Don Was, Vernon Reid and Slash. “ At the risk of sounding grandiose, destiny has designated me as the curator of the MC5 legacyKramer told Uncut Last year. And to be true to that legacy, I must stay connected to the founding principles that the MC5 represents: a working-class approach to art and the desire to continue to advance music so that it reflects the world in which we live. let’s live. »