Wayne Kramer of the proto-punk group MC5 has died at the age of 75, according to an announcement shared on his official social media accounts Friday.
The music legend was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January, a colleague told The Detroit Free Press. “It happened fast. He didn’t suffer,” Jason Heath, the program director of Kramer’s nonprofit Jail Guitar Doors, was quoted saying. “He was surrounded by friends and family.”
Kramer was a guitarist, vocalist and founder of MC5, which began formulating when he was in high school in 1965. MC5’s aggressive sound, simplistic song writing, and radical political messages made them an iconic fixture of the Detroit music landscape, and set the stage for the punk rock movement.
Kramer served a short stint in prison for trying to sell an undercover officer what he called “a big pile of cocaine” between 1975 and 1978. While in prison, he played in a jazz band with famous jazz trumpeter Red Rodney. Kramer was the executive director of Jail Guitar Doors, a non-profit working to address prison violence and recidivism by engaging inmates through music. Kramer reunited with members of MC5 to go on tour in 2018, and again in 2022.