15 Rock & Roll Rebels

For these 15 revolutionaries, the only place to be was on the outside looking in.

MC5

Wayne Kramer, Fred 'Sonic' Smith and Rob Tyner of MC5 perform in Mount Clemens, Michigan circa 1969.
Leni Sinclair/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

"Kick out the jams!" That was the rallying cry of the late Sixties, when the counterculture shed its passivity for political action in the streets. The band that coined the phrase, Detroit's MC5, was a hard-driving rock group whose members shared a love of the period's chaotic free jazz. When they began performing, one writer said their sound was like "a catastrophic force of nature the band was barely able to control." Inspired by the Black Panthers, the band's manager, John Sinclair, was instrumental in founding the sympathetic White Panther Party, and he had the band bring unloaded rifles onstage in a display of militancy. During the Vietnam protest that was marred by police brutality at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the band was the only act of several scheduled to perform; they played for eight hours. The band, led by singer Rob Tyner and guitarists Wayne Kramer and Fred "Sonic" Smith, burned out early, after the disappointing commercial performances of their first three albums. But their legacy as radical rockers and punk progenitors lives on.

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