Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I happened to hear the song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott-Heron on the radio today. This was an expression used by some in the ’60’s but he’s the guy that wrote a song with that name. It is actually in the United States National Recording Registry based on its cultural, artistic or historical significance. I hadn’t heard the song for a while and I had forgotten that it’s not only deadly serious but also at the same time, quite funny.

Scott-Heron was an activist and poet. His themes were freedom and what it’s like to live as a black man in America. For a young white guy in his teens, this was heady stuff. One of my favorite songs by him is a song called “Winter In America.” As you might expect it has less to do with actual winter and is more about – from his perspective – the state of America in the mid-70’s.

The Constitution
A noble piece of paper
With free society
Struggled but it died in vain
And now Democracy is ragtime on the corner
Hoping for some rain
Looks like it’s hoping
Hoping for some rain

Unfortunately, Scott-Heron developed drug problems and died a few years ago from HIV-related complications. While he is not a household name, I still do hear his music wafting out from satellite radio and even the occasional juke box from time to time. And while he was ambivalent about rap, his influence on it was stated eloquently in Wikipedia:

“In response to Scott-Heron’s death, Public Enemy’s Chuck D stated “RIP GSH…and we do what we do and how we do because of you” on his Twitter account. His UK publisher, Jamie Byng, called him “one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met”.

On hearing of the death, R&B singer Usher stated: “I just learned of the loss of a very important poet…R.I.P., Gil Scott-Heron. The revolution will be live!!” Richard Russell, who produced Scott-Heron’s final studio album, called him a “father figure of sorts to me”, while Eminem stated: “He influenced all of hip-hop.”

2 thoughts on “Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

  1. He did some terrific stuff. My wife and I have been fans of his forever, even seeing him once in Boston many years ago. Check out his ‘Best Of.’ BTW, I fixed the formatting problems this post had.

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