Bands (and speakers): John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Stevie Wonder, Bob Seger, Phil Ochs, David Peel, Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Rubin (Yippies), Bobby Seale (Black Panthers), Ed Sanders (The Fugs), Dave Dellinger (Chicago Seven defendant), and more.
This is the only rock concert poster promoting a John Lennon appearance, post-Beatles.
John Sinclair was a leading figure in the counterculture movement in the Detroit area. He was manager of the MC5, and leader of the White Panther Party—an anti-racist countercultural group of white socialists seeking to assist the Black Panthers in the Civil Rights Movement from 1968 to 1969. Sinclair was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1969 for possession of two joints. The severity of the sentence [“Ten for Two”] caused a wave of protest that culminated in this landmark rally. In a famous incident at Woodstock, Abbie Hoffman interrupted The Who’s performance to talk about the plight of John Sinclair until Pete Townshend bumped him off the stage with his guitar.
In late 1971, John and Yoko were getting very active politically and had become friends with Yippies Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin in New York City and Rubin encouraged them to get involved with the event. Lennon had written a song about Sinclair’s plight and so was eager to do it. When the promotor received a call from Yoko Ono he said “yeah and I’m Timothy Leary,” and hung up. John Lennon called back and talked his way on to the bill and as one could guess the 10,000 seat arena sold out in hours.
Lennon was also planning a substantial tour of North America in 1971 to focus on political action and awareness (known as the anti-Nixon tour) and he thought this would be a good warm-up event. The day before the rally, the Michigan State Senate passed a bill that drastically reduced penalties for marijuana possession. Three days after the rally, the Michigan Supreme Court granted Sinclair bail pending appeal, after having denied six previous such requests. In a scene out of a hippie version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” flashbulbs popped and movie cameras rolled, as the long-haired revolutionary walked out a free man again after 2 ½ years in prison.
The success of the Rally backfired to the extent that Lennon subsequently found himself under intensive FBI surveillance and threat of deportation. The anti-Nixon tour was canceled, and the former Beatle shied away from political activism for the rest of his life. In fact, Lennon only performed on stage for a handful of events and he never went out on tour during his post-Beatles career. The events he played were all at the last minute and therefore not advertised by poster. So, this is it, folks. The only poster advertising a John Lennon concert before of the event.