Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)

I was very saddened today to hear of the death of Gil Scott-Heron.  Scott-Heron, 62, died at a Manhattan hospital Friday.  The cause of death wasn't disclosed, but he had a long, painful history of substance abuse.

If you read through some of the obituaries you'll see Scott-Heron credited as a progenitor of rap music.  That's true in a way -- a lot of his work was just spoken-word pieces (mostly his poems) set to music, but the music was much jazzier than anything you might consider rap today.

He never achieved much more than cult status, but was best known for "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."
The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox in 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, brother.
Scott-Heron, who had a masters in creative writing from John Hopkins University, wrote a couple of novels and a couple of books of poetry, and recorded fifteen studio albums and nine live albums.  Other noteworthy songs include "We Almost Lost Detroit," "The Bottle," "Home Is Where the Hatred Is," and cover versions of Bill Withers's "Grandma's Hands" and Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues."  My favorite was "B Movie," a scathing protest against Ronald Ray-Gun and us for electing him -- "We're all actors in this, I suppose."
Come with us back to those inglorious days, when heroes weren't zeros, before fair was square, when the cavalry came straight away and all-American men were like Hemingway, to the days of the wondrous "B" movie.

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