ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
All I really want to say / Is that the problems come and go
But the sunshine seems to stay
CDs by Gil-Scott Heron
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Books by Gil-Scott Heron
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Gil Scott-Heron, Spoken-Word Musician, Dies at 62By The Associated PressMay 27, 2011Musician Gil Scott-Heron, who helped lay the groundwork for rap by fusing minimalistic percussion, political expression and spoken-word poetry on songs such as “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” died Friday at age 62. A friend, Doris C. Nolan, who answered the telephone listed for his Manhattan recording company, said he died in the afternoon at St. Luke’s Hospital after becoming sick upon returning from a European trip. “We’re all sort of shattered,” she said. Scott-Heron’s influence on rap was such that he sometimes was referred to as the Godfather of Rap, a title he rejected.
“If there was any individual initiative that I was responsible for it might have been that there was music in certain poems of mine, with complete progression and repeating ‘hooks,’ which made them more like songs than just recitations with percussion,” he wrote in the introduction to his 1990 collection of poems, “Now and Then.” He referred to his signature mix of percussion, politics and performed poetry as bluesology or Third World music. But then he said it was simply “black music or black American music.” “Because Black Americans are now a tremendously diverse essence of all the places we’ve come from and the music and rhythms we brought with us,” he wrote. . . .
Scott-Heron recorded the song that would make him famous, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” which critiqued mass media, for the album 125th and Lenox in Harlem in the 1970s. He followed up that recording with more than a dozen albums, initially collaborating with musician Brian Jackson. His most recent album was “I’m New Here,” which he began recording in 2007 and was released in 2010. Throughout his musical career, he took on political issues of his time, including apartheid in South Africa and nuclear arms. He had been shaped by the politics of the 1960s and the black literature, especially of the Harlem Renaissance.
Scott-Heron was born in Chicago on April 1, 1949. He was raised in Jackson, Tenn., and in New York before attending college at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Before turning to music, he was a novelist, at age 19, with the publication of The Vulture, a murder mystery.He also was the author of The Nigger Factory, a social satire.NYTimes
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Gil Scott-Heron was the bridge between The Black Arts Movement and Hip Hop. Surely we are from Allah and to Him we return.Marvin X
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Gil Scott’s Role in an Untelevised Revolution
With the passing of Gil Scott-Heron [1949-2011], we’re certain to hear about his wonderful career as a poet and musician over the coming days, weeks . . . years. As we should. But there’s another story that relates to “Scotty,” as his childhood friends in Jackson, Tennessee, where he was raised, used to call him. On January 25, 1962, Gil Scott-Heron and two other students were sent by their guardians to Tigrett Junior High School, effectively desegregating the school, and later by extension the school system. I know what you’re asking. Hadn’t the Supreme Court declared in that 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education that it was unconstitutional to segregate public schools? Yep, but listen: some of these Southern towns don’t care about your fancy laws and equality and constitution. I heard about Scotty as one of those three students who helped desegregate the schools before I became aware of his talents and many contributions as a poet and musician. Well, in a way, I heard about his very early years as a musician because he took piano lessons with my aunt when adolescent growing up in Jackson. The schools in Jackson, where I was raised, did not officially become desegregated until the early 1990s. I was just starting high school at the time. It was in the 1962, after Gil Scott-Heron and others went to Tigrett, that got black folks unofficially attending more than just the black schools. When the older folks who really helped change the system reflected on things at the time of official desegregation in the early 1990s, they’d mention this guy Scotty, along with his classmates such as Brenda Moses and Madeline Walker who were the first black students to go to the white schools. I’ve been switching back and forth saying Gil Scott-Heron and Scotty, as I spoke with my aunt early today about him. She, like all his other friends in Jackson, only knew him as Scotty. In 1963, Lille Scott, his grandmother died, and so Scotty left Jackson and moved to New York City with his mother. Scotty was then on the road to becoming “the” Gil Scott-Heron.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
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Breath of Life Presents
Gil Scott-Heron & His Music
Reviews by Mtume ya Salaam & Kalamu ya Salaam
They need to study music. I played in several bands before I began my career as a poet. Theres a big difference between putting words over some music, and blending those same words into the music. Theres not a lot of humor. They use a lot of slang and colloquialisms, and you dont really see inside the person. Instead, you just get a lot of posturing. Gil on rap in the 90s
Id intended to write about something else this week, but I woke up on a particularly good side of the bed this morning (this morning being the morning of December 31st, the last morning of 2005) and thereby decided to write instead about a few songs that express the way I feel this morning: realistic and determined yet joyful and optimistic. Actually, it isnt just this morningIm in the midst of the longest streak of consecutive good days that I can ever recall having. Im not talking about a few days. Im not even talking about a few weeks. Im talking about a couple of months or more without a single day that I didnt actually enjoy. At first, I kept waiting for my usual cantankerous, ornery, cynical self to reappear. But every morning, Id go in the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face and thered be the same happy face looking back at me. So, I give in. Im officially happy.
On to the music . . .
Gil Scott-Heron is probably best-known for his stridently political materialsongs like Johannesburg, The Bottle, and of course, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.but my favorite Gil Scott Heron songs are the ballads. Invariably pensive and reflective yet always filled with hope, Gils ballads range in tone from the political (Winter In America ) to the nostalgic (A Very Precious Time) to the outright optimistic (A Lovely Day).
Gil wrote so many great ballads that its impossible for me to pick a favorite, but at the moment, the one Im feeling the most (no doubt because of the imminent New Year) is Beginnings” (The First Minute Of A New Day). Beginnings is a lament, I admit that, but the soaring vocals and the raw honesty of the lyrics raise my spirits. And, although Gil sings Were struggling here / Faced with our every fear / Just to survive, that isnt the part that stays with me after the song ends. The part that stays with me is when he sings Were searching out our every doubt / And winning. And winning. Thats the part I always remember. The lyrics to A Very Precious Time read like a requiem to innocence: Was there a touch of spring? / Was there the faintest breeze? / And did she have a pink dress on? / And when she smiled could you almost touch the warmth? But Precious Time isnt a simple nostalgia trip, that isnt Brother Gils style. In the bridge, Gil defines his wistful look back as a means to remain in the present, to remain cognizant of the reasons we struggle on, even when we would much rather give in: And now they got me trying to define in later life how much her love means to me / And it keeps me struggling to remember my first touch of spring. The song ends with Gil picking out notes on his keyboard and humming softly to himself La-da da-da da-da-dum a statement of considerable eloquence which, in my opinion, sums up the matter perfectly. A Lovely Day and I Think Ill Call It Morning are peas in a pod: twin dedications to joy, happiness, and freedom. It isnt often that a revolutionary is willing or able to give in to unvarnished optimism. So listen to these two tracks and decide for yourself: if a conflicted and complicated musical revolutionary like Brother Gil can write and sing earnest paeans to sunshine and flowers, what kind of mood do you want to be in today? What kind of mood do you want to be in tomorrow? What kind of mood do you want to be in next year?
All I really want to say Is that the problems come and go But the sunshine seems to stay Just look around I think weve found a lovely day .
Happy 2006, mi jente. Lets do this! Mtume ya Salaam
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Beginnings (from From South Africa To South Carolina, Arista 1976) “A Very Precious Time (from Winter In America, Strata-East 1974) “A Lovely Day (from From South Africa To South Carolina,, Arista 1976) “I Think Ill Call It Morning (from Pieces Of A Man, Flying Dutchman 1971)
Its not easy
Its not easy being Gil Scott-Heron, an icon everyone respects as well as a fuck-up everyone feels sorry for. How do you contain the contradiction of being an insightful, revolutionary artist and a habitual addict? My man, Richard Pryor had a similar problem, except he never was seen as a political leader. If any one artist represents the post-civil rights journey of African Americans, its Gil Scott-Heron. Mtume likes Gils music. He got it from his Mama & Daddy. Literally. At some points, Gil was playing damn near everyday in the house. I still play Gils music, but I no longer play it with unadulterated joytoday, Gils music always calls to mind contradictions and the difficult struggle of coping with, and sometimes even overcoming, those human failings we all have, those failings which Gil has in spades. Gil has a deep catalogue, deep as in beaucoup beautiful songs and deep as in profound music. Turn the lights out, sit quietly in the dark and review your life; if youre over 35, a few of these songs are damn near guaranteed to churn up shit inside you that will make even the hardest of the hard blink back a tear or two.
In the midst of all of his contradictions and shortcomings, one thing Gil never did was lie about it in his music. All he is (as they say, the good, the bad etc.) is in there, poetically so, beautifully so, sing-along so. Who else would be honest enough to say, home is where the hatred is ? A junkie on his way back home. Ultimately, Gill is uplifting not because he is perfect, but rather because he is honest about his flaws, and in being so honest about being so fucked up, he encourages us who are less fucked up than he is to be honest about our own contradictions. A little further down the line, I think Ill do a Gil Scott-Heron write-up, but for now, lets just resolve: regardless of how painful it be, lets make a pact that we will at the very least be honest with ourselves about who we actually are.Kalamu ya Salaam
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Gil Scott-Heronb. 1 April 1949, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Raised in Jackson, Tennessee, by his grandmother, Scott-Heron moved to New York at the age of 13. His estranged father played for Glasgow Celtic, a Scottish football team. Astonishingly precocious, Scott-Heron had published two novels (The Vulture and The Nigger Factory) plus a book of poems (Small Talk At 125th And Lenox) by 1972.
He met musician Brian Jackson when both were students at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, and in 1970 they formed the Midnight Band to play their original blend of jazz, soul and prototype rap music. Small Talk At 125th And Lenox was mostly an album of poems (from his book of the same name), but later albums showed Scott-Heron developing into a skilled songwriter whose work was soon covered by other artists: for example, LaBelle recorded his “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and Esther Phillips made a gripping version of “Home Is Where The Hatred Is.”
In 1973, Scott-Heron had a minor hit with “The Bottle,” a song inspired by a group of alcoholics who congregated outside his and Jackson’s communal house in Washington, DC. Winter In America (on which Jackson was co-credited for the first time) and The First Minute Of A New Day, the latter for new label Arista Records, were both heavily jazz-influenced, but later sets saw Scott-Heron and Jackson exploring more pop-orientated formats, and in 1976 they scored a hit with the disco-based protest single, “Johannesburg”.
posted 3 January 2005
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Gil Scott-Heron is backand as challenging as everBy Patrick NeateWhen I suggest to Scott-Heron that his work has been a victim of his convictions, he responds with enthusiasm: Did we make people feel uncomfortable? Maybe we did, but thats for them to judge. Like I say, weve been heard of more than we been heard. So, if they felt uncomfortable, at least that would mean they heard it. . . .
As far as Im concerned, what we were doing was necessary. When we released Johannesburg, people didnt want to talk about South Africa; so we were taking a chance. I felt somebodys got to bring it up, but I didnt necessarily intend it to be me. I would have rather it was congressmen or those intended to talk about these things, but they wouldnt. But if my children were to ask me what Id said, I wanted to have an answer. Nowadays, there are more artists prepared to address these issues and that makes it harder to control. But then they could control it simply by removing my stuff from the shelves. And they did. Now theyd have to take out half the f***ing store. He laughs heartily. TimesOnline
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Excerpts by Alec Wilkinson
9 August 2010
Scott-Herons parents separated when he was two years old, and while his mother went to Puerto Rico to teach English he lived with his grandmother in Jackson. My grandmother was dead serious, he said one day, sitting on his couch. Her sense of humor was a secret. She started me playing the piano. There was a funeral parlor next door to our house, and they had this old piano that they used for wakes and funerals, and they were getting ready to take it to the junk yard. She wanted me to play hymns for the ladies sewing circle that met every Thursday, and she bought the piano for six dollars, and she paid a lady up the street five or ten cents a lesson to teach me to play four hymns, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Rock of Ages, The Old Rugged Cross, and I cant think of the other one. I was eight years old, and I had started to listen to WDIA in Memphis, and they would play the blues. When I was practicing, I would have to mix them, because my grandmother was not big on the blues. When she was out in the yard, I can play what I want, but if shes in the house I got to mix John Lee Hooker with Rock of Ages.
The phone rang, but he ignored it. I found my grandmother dead, he went on. It shook me up. I got up to make her breakfast, and I knew it was strange that she wasnt stirring. I went in to wake her, and she was laying in rigor mortishe leaned back and held his legs and arms stiffand Im done. I called next door, and the kid picked up the phone, and I was so wild, he dropped it. I went outside and saw the woman from the house going to work, and she came and took over. I was twelve.
With his mother and her brother, Scott-Heron moved to an apartment in the Bronx, and his mother went to work for the city housing authority. Before long, his uncle moved out, and his mother couldnt afford the rent, so she put her name on a list for an apartment in a project in Chelsea, in Manhattan. Black people didnt want to live in Chelsea, but we just wanted to go somewhere, Scott-Heron said. We started in 65. It was eighty-five per cent Puerto Rican, fifteen per cent white, and me. . . .
Scott-Heron was one of five black students among a class of a hundred, and in his second year he got in trouble for playing the piano. They had a beautiful Steinway they used for the choir and the chorus, but I got caught using it to play the Temptations, he said. A guy came in and screamed at me to stop, and they put a sign up saying Do Not Play. A few days later, he came in, and Im sitting under the sign playing the piano. So they told me they were going to call my mother, and I laughednot because I was being disrespectful, although he took it that waybut because I thought, You really dont want to get my mother into this.
But they called her and told her to come to a disciplinary meeting, and the evening before she asked me what had happened, and I told her. And she said, Well, did you hit the man?, and I said, No, I was playing the piano. I tried to explain that there had been no rule against it until I did it. A lot of kids had been going up there to play Chopsticks, I said, and she asked me again, did I hit him. She had reached the conclusion that I had done something so awful that I didnt want to describe it, because she couldnt imagine that they had called her up there to tell her I had been playing the piano.
The meeting took place around a horseshoe-shaped table. My mother listened to them, and when they were finished she said, You all know where we live, and the difficulties of our life, so Im not going to talk about that. We got burglaries, assaults, muggingsits not the best place to raise a childbut whenever something happens down there that might involve my son, I dont call you. I figure thats my area, and this is yours. Now, I have read your discipline handbook, and what I suggest you do is expel him, because its this way or that, near as I can tell, so what Im going to do right now, since this is your area, Im going to leave and go to work, because if I dont get there soon, theyre going to take half my days wages from me, and when I get home this evening hell tell me what you decided, but, if youre asking my opinion, you have to expel him. We have really enjoyed it here, and it has added to my sons life, and I think weve added to your ethical-culture thing, but Im going to go now, and youll excuse my son because hes got to walk me to the subway. Thank you all very much. She got up and put on her coat, and I took a hard look at the man who had started all this, to say, See, I told you you didnt want to get my mama involved.
She walked to the subway in a stone silence. All she said was I want you to leave these peoples piano alone. Youre not here to play the piano. I said, What if they expel me? Then you wont have to worry about it; youll be someplace else. You leave these peoples stuff alone, and when you tell me something from now on Ill believe you. Scott-Heron was made to stay after school three Wednesdays in a row to wash out the brushes in the art room. A classmate, Roderick Harrison, says that he remembers two things about Scott-Heron. He could hold a classroom or a hallway in thrall is one of them. The other recollection is of his mother. She was, he told me, imposing. NewYorker
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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Lyrics by Gil Scott-Heron
The revolution will not be televised. You will not be able to stay home, brother. You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out. . . .You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip, Skip out for beer during commercials, Because 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. There will be no pictures of you and Willie May pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run, or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance. NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32 or report from 29 districts. The revolution will not be televised. There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers in the instant replay. There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers in the instant replay. There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process. There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving For just the proper occasion. Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and women will not care if Dick finally gets down with Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people will be in the street looking for a brighter day. The revolution will not be televised. There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock news and no pictures of hairy armed women liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose. The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb, Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth. The revolution will not be televised. The revolution will not be right back after a message bbout a white tornado, white lightning, or white people. You will not have to worry about a dove in your bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl. The revolution will not go better with Coke. The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath. The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat. The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised, will not be televised, will not be televised. The revolution will be no re-run brothers; The revolution will be live.
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The Vulture and The Nigger Factory is an omnibus edition of the two highly successful novels from the early 1970s by one of America’s most outspoken and important postwar commentators on race, politics, and culture
Scott-Heron’s highly successful two novels are now packaged together for the first time. The VultureFirst published in 1970 and digging the rhythms of the street, where the biggest deal life has to offer is getting high, The Vulture is a hip and fast-moving thriller. It relates the strange story of the murder of a teenage boy called John Leetelling it in the words of four men who knew him when he was just another kid working after school, hanging out, waiting for something to happen. Just who did kill John Lee and why?
Here lies a man with a kind heart and a good will. . . . All the nice comments that were whispered about you . . . were as worthless as the air that transported them from mouth to ear.
The Vulture relates the strange story of John Lees murdertelling it in the words of four men who knew him when he was just another kid working after school, hanging out, waiting for something to happen. Just who did kill John Lee and why? A hip and fast-moving thriller.
The Nigger Factory is a biting satire set on the campus of Sutton University, Virginia. The failure of Sutton to embrace the changing attitudes of the Sixties has necessitated (has caused) disaffection among the black students and revolution is nigh.
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Father of hip-hop, Gil Scott-Heron is a survivorJonathan Takiff Philadelphia Daily NewsIn the late 1960s and ’70s, there were none hipper or signifying more on the conscious black arts scene than Gil Scott-Heron. The Lincoln University- and Johns Hopkins-educated poet, author and English professor also discovered his voice as a dramatically throaty, impassioned jazz- and blues-tinged singer. Though he has just released the long-overdue album I’m New Here, he was nurturing a modern neo-soul sound long before the style had a name. And if you ask any of the world’s most relevant rappers from Chuck D to Common who inspired them, odds are good they’ll cite this guy.
In fact, Scott-Heron is still living down his rep as the father of hip-hop, cited for predicting (first to a bongo beat and later with a jazz combo) that “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” He also put a harsh spotlight on South African apartheid in the bluesy holler “What’s the Word? Johannesburg,” pondered the social cost of putting “Whitey on the Moon” and characterized the presidency of former actor Ronald Reagan as just another B Movie. So what does Scott-Heron think of all he’s wrought? My kids like hip-hop, and I like my kids, he said diplomatically. That’s who they’re ready for. I’m not supposed to like it. They’re not doing it for me. HoustonChronicle
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Gil Scott-Heron on You-Tube
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[Gil Scott-Heron] was a great poet, a giant of the spoken word, and Gil Scott Heron spoke about politics as it was. He challenged the corrupt nature of the Nixon Administration, and the fact that Ford had pardoned Nixon. When I was a young man growin’ up in South Carolina, Gil Scott Heron sang about nuclear weapons that were being built in South Carolina, nuclear radiological waste that was being stored in South Carolina. He sang about the connection between South Carolina and South Africa. Gil Scott Heron spoke truth to power, and was probably one of the last contemporary artists whose words challenged the empire that is America. And you don’t have any writers or any poets or any musicians that can parallel his work on the contemporary scene. To say he’s the father of modern hip hop, of modern rap is to say that they have words in common with him, but surely the message doesn’t even compare to his body of work and the teaching, the radical progressivism that he represented throughout his life, no one can match that. . . .
His body of work is just so large. I mean everyone remembers “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” but a lotta people don’t remember “H20GATE, Watergate Blues,” in which he sang about Richard Nixon and Watergate, or, when Gerald Ford gave Nixon a pardon, “We Beg Your Pardon, America,” or “Whitey on the Moon“: “Rat bit my sister today, but Whitey’s on the moon.” That’s an awesome song. His body of work is just so huge that y’know one thing about his passing that has been kind of a mixed blessing is that people have gone back to listen to all the work that he produced in his life.Kevin Alexander Gray / AnnGarrison
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New Perspectives on Black Popular Culture
Edited by Tony Bolden
Paying homage to the ancestors (Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, Professor Longhair), sitting at the feet of the elders (George Clinton, Sly Stone, James Brown) and welcoming a brand new generation of griots headed by funkmaster Aaron McGruder, The Funk Era and Beyond fills the largest remaining gap in the conversation on African-American music. Bolden’s collection is theoretically sophisticated, endlessly provocative and, best of all, a joy to read.Craig Werner, Professor and Chair, Department of Afro-American Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America
This engaging book takes the reader on a journey across the multi-layered and multidisciplinary terrain of funk. This series of essays on music and the visual and literary arts reveal how da funk represents innovation and aesthetic principles rooted in the Black vernacular, which defines the uniqueness of Black creativity. The Funk Era and Beyond is a must-read to understand funk as a philosophy, an attitude, a way of life, and more broadly, a cultural phenomena.Portia K. Maultsby, Indiana University and editor of African American Music: An Introduction
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New Perspectives on Black Popular Culture
Edited by Tony Bolden
Table of Contents I. Prelude from the Funkmaster * Sly Stone and the Sanctified Church–Mark Anthony Neal * II. Introduction * Theorizing the Funk: An Introduction–Tony Bolden * III. Inside the Funk Shop: Writings on the Funk Band Era *A Philosophy of Funk: The Politics and Pleasure of a Parliafunkadelicment Thang!Amy Nathan Wright * James Brown: Icon of Black PowerRickey Vincent * “The Land of Funk”: Dayton, Ohio–Scot Brown * From the Crib to the Coliseum: An Interview with Bootsy CollinsThomas Sayers Ellis * IV.Impressions: Funkativity and Visual Art * Cane Fields, Blues Text-ure: An ImprovisationalKaren Ohnesorge * Good Morning BluesMaurice Bryan * Shine2.0: Aaron McGruder’s Huey Freeman as Contemporary Folk HeroHoward Rambsy II * V. Funkintelechy: (Re)cognizing Black Writing *AlabamaAldon Nielsen * Jazz Aesthetics and the Revision of Myth in Leon Forrest’s There Is a Tree More Ancient than EdenDana Williams * Living the Funk: Lifestyle, Lyricism, and Lessons inCarmen Phelps * Modern and Contemporary Art of Black Women * Cultural Memory in Zora Neale Hurston’s Mules and Men Ondra Krouse-Dismukes* VI. Imagine That: Fonky Blues Rockin and Rollin * Funkin’ with Bach: The Impact of Professor Longhair on Rock’n’RollCheryl L. Keys * Blue/Funk as Political Philosophy: The Poetry of Gil Scott-HeronTony Bolden Tony Bolden is Associate Professor of African American Literature and Culture, University of Alabama and is the author of Afro-Blue: Improvisations in African American Poetry and Culture
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The 10 Best Gil Scott-Heron Songs
By Michael A. Gonzales
1. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (1971)
While the bare-bones original version was recorded live as a spoken-word poem on Gil's gritty first album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, the song was later re-recorded with a full band that brought the funk and the flutes. Years later, Nike jacked the instrumental track and made the revolution about basketball with KRS-One rockin' the mic, which somehow just proved Gil’s point all over again.
2. “Pieces of a Man” (1971)
The title track to Gil’s debut studio album was a fitting ode to broken Black men dealing with their issues. Former Rolling Stone critic Vince Aletti wrote that Heron sang with an ache in his voice that conveys pain, bitterness and tenderness. He wasn’t lying.
3. “Home is Where The Hatred Is” (1971)
Funky as hell, this sad tale of a junkie roaming the urban landscape of Any Ghetto, U.S.A. prophesied Heron’s own cracked-out existence two decades later. As Kanye West proved when he sampled the track on Common’s “My Way Home,” this track still feels just as powerful as it did more than forty years after its release.
4. “H20 Blues” (1974)
Recorded at D&B Sound studio outside of Washington, D.Cwhere Gil and musical partner Brian Jackson dwelledthis song was an aural attack on the scandalous politicians who populated his home turf. Aimed directly at Tricky Dick Nixon and his crew of crooked cronies, this Watergate-era song dropped the bomb.
5. “The Bottle” (1974)
Although Scott-Heron produced innovative music throughout his career, he wasn’t exactly a “singles” kind of guy. Still, this track about the the evils of drunkenness managed to climb to No. 15 on the R&B charts in 1974. While the song’s lyrics were serious as a pint of cheap gin, with its island groove and dope flute solo (courtesy of Brian Jackson) it was also quite danceable. According to music biz legend, the success of this track inspired Clive Davis to sign Scott-Heron to his newly formed Arista Records.
6. “Angel Dust” (1978
In the mid-1970s, a few years before the crack attack that ate New York City, angel dust became the killer-dilla drug of choice in hoods across America. Fly, funky and fantastic, this Gil Scott-Heron anti-drug song was pure dope.
Always on the cutting edge of political commentary, Gil made this track about the dangers of nuclear power after reading the John G. Fuller book about the Fermi power plant that suffered a near meltdown in 1966. Name-dropping murdered activist and whistle-blower Karen Silkwood in the lyrics, the song was remade by indie pop band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. earlier this year.
8. “Angola, Louisiana” (1978)
“It’s impossible to visit the place and not feel that a prisoner could disappear off the face of the earth and no one would ever know or care,” wrote New York Times journalist Peter Applebome in 1998 about Louisiana’s Angola State Prison. Known as one of the most brutal prison complexes in the country, Angola has more inmates on death row than any other facility in the country. Heron and Jackson wrote this track about the unfair imprisonment of black teenager Gary Tyler, who was jailed in 1975 after a 13-year-old white kid was killed during a riot. Although no weapon was found, Tyler was arrested for the crime. Supposedly beaten by police, he confessed and became the youngest person ever sentenced to death. Although no longer on death row, Tyler is still an inmate. While Brit artists UB40 (“Tyler”) and Chumbawamba (“Waiting for the Bus”) have since made songs about Tyler-but as in so many other cases, Gil Scott-Heron was the first
9. “Me and The Devil” 2010)
Most down-home music fans know the bugged tale about original guitar bluesman Robert Johnson, who supposedly sold his soul to the devil at them there Delta crossroads in exchange for mastering the axe. Like the iconic guitarist, Gil Scott-Heron also walked, talked and played mighty hard on the dark side. With his beautifully stark cover of Johnson’s classic “Me and the Devil,” he embraced that brooding blues lifestyle with a vengeance.
10. “I’ll Take Care of You” (2011)
Even when he was close to death after years of living on the edge, smoking crack and going to jail, Gil Scott-Heron was still capable of great recordings. Billed as his comeback in 2010, the album I’m New Here was hailed as one of the best recordings of his illustrious career. Gil’s gravelly version of this song, first made famous by old-school soul man Brook Benton, was remixed by Brit producer Jamie xx, who turned the track into a dance-floor sensation. More recently Drake and Rihanna had a huge hit that interpolated the song’s chorus.
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.
“Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”Lisa Adkins, University of London
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A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys muscles jabbered like chickens. Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake.
She conveys something fundamental about Eschs fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, whats salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.
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By Gil Scott Heron
Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King’s birthday ended up becoming a national holiday (“The Last Holiday because America can’t afford to have another national holiday”), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.
Gil uses Lennon’s violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King’s assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. Jamie Byng, Guardian /
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 29 March 2012