• Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

MC5 co-founder and activist was 75

MC5 co-founder and activist was 75

Wayne Kramer, founding member of the legendary Detroit hard rock band MC5 and one of rock’s greatest guitarists, has died. He was 75.

Kramer, born Wayne Kambes, passed away on Friday and news of his death was confirmed on his official Instagram page.

A simple black and white photo of the rocker was posted with the caption: “Wayne S. Kramer PEACE BE WITH YOU” 🕊️
April 30, 1948 – February 2, 2024.”

No cause of death was provided.

Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello paid tribute to Kramer on his Instagram, sharing a lengthy post about the late musician.

“Brother Wayne Kramer was the best man I’ve ever known,” he wrote. “He possessed a one of a kind mixture of deep wisdom & profound compassion, beautiful empathy and tenacious conviction. His band the MC5 basically invented punk rock music.”

MC5 (from left, Fred “Sonic” Smith, Wayne Kramer, Rob Tyner, Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson and Michael Davis) pose for a photo in 1969 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Tyner and Davis are wearing White Panther Party pins. Getty Images

“Wayne came through personal trials of fire with drugs and jail time and emerged a transformed soul who went on to save countless lives through his tireless acts of service. He and his incredible wife Margaret founded @jailguitardoorsusa which founds music programs in prisons as life changing effective rehabilitation,” Morello added. “I’ve played with Wayne in prisons and watched him transform lives, he was just unbelievable … The countless lives he’s touch, healed, helped and saved will continue his spirit and legacy. He was like a non-Tom Joad. Whenever and wherever any of us kick out the jams, Brother Wayne will be right there with us.”

As a teenager, Kramer, alongside friend Fred “Sonic” Smith, co-founded the iconic band MC5, which stood for Motor City Five, in the mid-’60s.

MC5 rose to prominence as the house band at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in 1967. John Sinclair, a left-wing activist, became the band’s manager, and the group aligned itself with the White Panther Party and adopted a politically charged stance. Their live performances, notably at the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests, solidified their reputation as a fierce and influential act.

MC5 (from left, Fred “Sonic” Smith, Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson, Rob Tyner, Wayne Kramer and Michael Davis) pose for a photo in front of an American flag in 1967 in Detroit, Michigan. Getty Images

In 1969, after the band signed to Elektra, Kramer and company returned to Detroit and its Grande Ballroom to record what would become their hit debut album “Kick Out the Jams.”

The band’s distorted brand of grunge rock, the live LP’s rallying cry of “Kick out the jams, motherfuckers” and their endorsement of the Black Panthers’ role in the 1967 Detroit riots made the group quite controversial.

In support of their album MC5 toured with bands like Cream and Big Brother and the Hold Company and they continued to influence the realms of punk and metal.

Wayne Kramer of MC5 performs onstage during the Wild Honey Foundation, Lenny Kaye & Rhino Present, a 50th Anniversary All-Star Celebration of the Nuggets Compilation Album at Alex Theatre on May 19, 2023. Getty Images

The band was later dropped by Elektra and signed with Atlantic Records, where they dropped two studio albums, 1970’s “Back in the USA” and 1971’s “High Time,” before they broke up.

In 1975, Kramer found himself in trouble after he was arrested for selling drugs to an undercover police officer. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

After his release, he started a band called Gang War with Johnny Thunders and founded the nonprofit Jail Guitar Doors, which was named after the Clash song inspired by Kramer’s legal woes.

Upon his 1979 release, Kramer joined Was (Not Was) and briefly started a band called Gang War with Johnny Thunders. For years, Kramer did occasional session guitar work while working as a carpenter.

Wayne Kramer of the band MC5 performs onstage during the Howie Pyro Forever Tribute concert at El Rey Theatre on September 25, 2022, in Los Angeles, California. Getty Images

In 1994, Kramer inked a deal with famed punk label Epitaph Records and released the 1995 solo project, “The Hard Stuff,” which featured the Melvins’ Dale Crover, drummer Josh Freese, Black Flag/Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris, Bad Religion’s Brett Gurewitz and many more.

Eventually, Kramer reunited the surviving members of the MC5 and toured with acts including Rage Against the Machine.

In more recent years, Kramer remained politically active, performing alongside Rage Against the Machine at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, and he played shows in support of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

On February 23, 2003, Kramer married Margaret Saadi. In 2013 he and his wife adopted a baby boy named Francis.

In 2018, Kramer published his memoir “The Hard Stuff.” That same year he announced the MC50 tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Kick Out the Jams.”

He is survived by Saadi and Francis.

The Post has reached out to reps of Kramer for comment.

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