John Sinclair

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The Great and Good, Public Works of John Sinclair extend close to 60 years. Poet, activist, promoter, and activist, he'd been tireless in bringing culture to audiences. John Lennon wrote a song about him in 1970. Musicians gravitate to him in the 21st century. Check out more of John Sinclair in this profile for the Detroit Artists Workshop that he co-founded.

"We Just Change The Beat" from Fattening Frogs For Snakes by John Sinclair and Blues Scholars, New Orleans, 2001. Personnel: John Sinclair (vocals); Bill Lynn (vocals); ELS (vocals); Marc Adams (piano); Andre Williams, Smiley (background vocals). Audio Remixers: John Sinclair ; Mark Bingham. Recorded at Mike West's Lower 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor, New Orleans, (02/15/2001-02/21/2001).

 

 

"We Just Change The Beat"

for Johnny Evans & Martin Gross


”You know,”
Willie Dixon says,
”when you go to changin’ beats
in music,
you change the whole style.

The difference in blues
or rock & roll
or jazz
is the beat. The beat
actually changes the whole

entire
style.” The beat actually
changes
the whole en-
tire style. Where you

put that beat, be
careful
or you’ll change the whole
change the whole
change the whole entire

when you go
to changin’ beats you know
you can
change
you can go to changin’

you can change the whole style"


    2

Now Frank Frost
of Lula, Mississippi
put it like this. He says:
”In other words,


we taking the down blues
& bring it up tempo.
I don’t know what
you would call it.

Just take the cotton-picking blues,
I would say,
& bring it up to modern music
today. I guess that still be blues.

The onliest difference
between the cotton-pickinG blues
& what we doing today
is the tempo. . . . Let me see

if I can give you something
to remind you
of back in those days”—
[& he plays a few notes]

”Now that’s just the old,
ordinary
original way, you know.
That’s just the cotton-picking blues

that way. Then we change up
just the tempo
& the beat. That’s the dance tempo
you hear now. Just something

they can dance to
these days. That’s the same blues.
We just change the beat.
It’s no different.”


—Detroit
March 21, 1982/
New Orleans
December 7, 1995/March 5, 1998