Wayne Kramer, Leader of MC5, Dead at 75

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The post Wayne Kramer, Leader of MC5, Dead at 75 appeared first on Consequence.

Wayne Kramer, co-founder, guitarist, and singer of the influential Detroit rock band MC5, has died at the age of 75. Kramer’s passing was announced on Friday (February 2nd) in a post shared to Instagram, revealing that the legendary musician died of pancreatic cancer.

“Wayne Kramer passed away today peacefully from pancreatic cancer. He will be remembered for starting a revolution in music, culture, and kindness,” read the statement on his official Instagram account.

MC5’s history dates back to 1963, when Kramer started a band with fellow guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith. After a couple years, the classic lineup of Kramer, Smith, singer Rob Tyner, bassist Michael Davis, and drummer Dennis Thompson was in place.

While MC5 never reached mainstream success and only released two studio albums — 1970’s Back in the USA and 1971’s High Time — they remain one of the most influential rock bands of all time, paving the way for fellow Detroit-area acts like The Stooges and The White Stripes. Their iconic song “Kick Out the Jams” has been covered countless times, including by Rage Against the Machine.

After their initial breakup in 1972, MC5 re-formed a couple years late with Kramer taking over as frontman of the band, as Tyner didn’t return to the group.

The reunion didn’t last long, as Kramer was sentenced to four years in prison in 1975 after selling drugs to federal agents. He also battled drug addiction for several years before reuniting MC5 briefly in 1992. MC5 also reunited a number of times in the 21st century, including one time in the early 2000s with The Dictators’ Handsome Dick Manitoba as lead singer, and had been an active band at the time of Kramer’s passing.

In 2018, Kramer launched the “MC50 Tour” in celebration of MC5’s 50th anniversary. He was joined by an all-star band that included Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron (both of Soundgarden), Brendan Canty (Fugazi), and Doug Pinnick (King’s X), as well as Don Was, whom Kramer had previously played with in Was (Not Was).

In 2022, Kramer announced that he would release a new album under the band name We Are All MC5, and unveiled the single “Heavy Lifting” featuring Tom Morello. The album has yet to be released, but Kramer did tour that year as MC5 with a lineup featuring Brad Brooks (Pollo Elastico), drummer Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction), bassist Vicki Randle (Mavis Staples) and guitarist Stevie Salas (David Bowie). Their last show was May 15th, 2022, in San Diego.

After overcoming his own drug problems, Kramer became very active in helping others with addiction. He was honored in 2009 at the Road Recovery benefit. He was also very involved in sociopolitical causes.

Dennis Thompson now stands as the sole living member of MC5’s classic lineup. Tyner died in 1991, Smith passed away in 1994, and Davis died in 2012.

Editor’s Note: Revisit Kramer’s interview with Kyle Meredith in 2018…

 

Wayne Kramer, Leader of MC5, Dead at 75
Spencer Kaufman

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