Sunday, August 14

How Jonathan Kinloch charted a career path from politics to music and back again


Photo illustration of a collage featuring Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan Kinloch and a microphone.
Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Jonathan Kinloch

How does one go from R&B music manager to local politician?

  • That’s a question Detroit native and journalist Aaron Foley posed following the recent death of Roderick “Pooh” Clark of the R&B group Hi-Five — an act once managed by Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan Kinloch. So we talked to Kinloch to find out.

How it happened: Kinloch was in politics as a teenager before he got into music. At 18, he sat on a Wayne County planning and development commission.

  • When Hi-Five came to town in 1990 to perform with Tony! Toni! Toné!, Kinloch asked former Mayor Coleman A. Young if the band could get a key to the city for their work with the homeless in their hometown of Oakland, Calif.
  • “Who in the hell is Tony! Toni! Toné! and Hi-Five? Stop bothering me with that bulls–t,” Kinloch recalled the famously foul-mouthed mayor telling him.
  • Nevertheless, Kinloch helped Hi-Five with logistics when they were in town, encouraging them to visit the Motown Museum, Steve’s Soul Food and helping with security arrangements.

The bottom line: Kinloch went on to manage Hi-Five for 15 years. The experience taught him that convincing people to vote for you isn’t much different than convincing them to buy your record.

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