It’s time to kick out the jams in heaven, motherfuckers. Legendary proto-punk guitarist and founder of the seminal proto-punk band MC5, Wayne Kramer, died yesterday at 75. The news was shared via both Kramer’s and MC5’s official Instagram pages, first simply stating that the iconic guitarist had died and giving no cause of death, and then following up a few hours later to clarify that Kramer had died from pancreatic cancer. As always, fuck cancer forever.
The statement on Instagram reads:
“Wayne Kramer passed away today peacefully from pancreatic cancer. He will be remembered for starting a revolution in music, culture, and kindness.
“If you would like to honor Wayne, donations are appreciated to his nonprofit organization, Jail Guitar Doors.”
Kramer and the MC5 were known for their far-left leaning politics, including their involvement with the White Panther Party, a radical organization of that stood in solidarity with the Black Panther Party and which was started by MC5 manager John Sinclair.
In keeping with the radical politics of the MC5, later in his life Kramer was deeply involved in a non-profit called Jail Guitar Doors, an organization started by Billy Bragg and named after a Clash song that referenced Kramer’s imprisonment for drug possession. The organization provides musical instruments to incarcerated people to help rehabilitate them with music. Kramer was so inspired by Bragg’s organization that he brought it to America in 2009 when he founded Jail Guitar Doors USA, bringing the same mission to the states.
Many musicians expressed their appreciation for Kramer’s influence on their work, but none were quite as poignant as the lengthy tribute shared on Instagram by former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who was deeply influenced by the MC5 and who covered MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams” on Rage’s covers album, Renegades. Morello’s tribute says:
“Brother Wayne Kramer was the best man I’ve ever known. 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 and was the only act to not chicken out and performed for the rioting protestors at the 1968 Dem National Convention. I’m pretty sure every album I’ve ever worked on the rawest fastest track had the working title “MC5” (“Sleep Now In The Fire” for example). Wayne came through personal trials of fire with drugs and jail time (the Clash song “Jail Guitar Doors” was written about Wayne) and emerged a transformed soul who went on to save countless lives through his tireless acts of service.”