John Lennon and Stevie Wonder? The epic Ann Arbor event that inspired Hash Bash

‘Freedom Rally’ event inspired Ann Arbor’s Hash Bash

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – In 1971, music icons descended upon Ann Arbor for one cause -- to protest the imprisonment of Michigan political activist John Sinclair.

The John Sinclair "Freedom Rally" was organized after Sinclair was imprisoned for possession of marijuana. The rally ended up being bigger than originally thought.

The event was held at Crisler Arena at the University of Michigan on Dec. 10, 1971. Here's who performed in support of Sinclair:

  • John Lennon
  • Yoko Ono
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Bob Seger
  • Archie Shepp
  • Phil Ochs
  • The Up

That's just to name a few. Speakers included Bobby Seale, Jerry Rubin, Allen Ginsberg and others.

After the rally, Sinclair would be granted freedom by the Michigan Supreme Court. The events eventually inspired Ann Arbor's annual Hash Bash rally.

Also see: A new book by Peter Andrews talks about the Ann Arbor music scene, including the Freedom Rally.

Watch Alex Atwell's Uniquely Detroit feature story on the "Freedom Rally" in the video player above. Check out an earlier profile on Sinclair below:

Below is a copy of the contract John Lennon signed to perform at the rally.

The contract states he would be paid $500 to perform. Lennon wrote "To be donated to John Sinclair" on the contract.


About the Authors:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.