5/28/11

Listener's Notes - Gil Scott-Heron

We mark the passing today of the great Gil Scott-Heron, songerwriter-poet who gave us so many great sounds and words, the biggest of which has been "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," the most recognized version of which appeared on the B-side of the 1971 single, "Home is Where the Hatred Is."  You could check out the original recording on Small Talk at 125th & Lenox.  I'll leave the comments on Scott-Heron's career to others -- The Nation and UK Guardian have something, and you might also check out a piece last year from The New Yorker.  Imagine that.

I can tell you that in the past few years, in a course I teach in American Studies, when I reach the point in my popular music sequence and introduce the roots of hip-hop -- complete with music blasting out of speakers -- I always make sure that the students listen to the whole of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."  I always get a few cringes over the course of the year at different points from the young people.  They like Louis Armstrong, but Charlie Parker is a little to fast for them.  The like Muddy Waters, but Bessie Smith is a little too strong.  They like Buck Owens, but Hank Williams, Sr. is a little too dark.

When I start up "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," the students get it, right from the first note.  They lock in on the groove, they laugh, they admire the flow of the words.  They get it: attitude, and all.  it's Marvin Gaye meets the Last Poets -- and yes, my students get both of those references.  Light a candle, say a prayer, write a poem.  May the Godfather of Rap be at peace.  His sound lives on.

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1 comment:

Big Time Jones said...

He also contributed extraordinarily poignant and beautiful songs like those in Winter in America. His sense of harmony (Speed Kills or Song of the Wind) wasn't too shabby either.