ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
A couple years earlier, Gil cut a track named Three Miles Down . . . in which he focused
on coal miners, not exactly the first profession that comes to mind when one thinks
of black people. Gil likens working in a coal mine to working in a graveyard.
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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Gil Scott-Heron “Blue Collar”
Breath of Life Music Commentary by Mtume ya Salaam & Kalamu ya Salaam
Im a Teamster and proud of it. Before I became one though, I cant say I knew for sure what that meant. What it means is, I belong to one of the largest labor unions in Americaspecifically, the one that includes truck drivers and dock workers. Originally, teamsters were mule-cart drivers or something like that, so thats the where the name came from. The other day on the radio, I heard an economist assert in an op-ed that the reason unions are losing power and membership in America is because they are no longer needed. The middle class in America is strong, he said, standards of living have never been higher, and therefore, unions have become redundant. Unions exist so that blue-collar individuals can earn a good living wage, health care and a pension. Since all of those things are already being taken care of by the free market system, he asked, why do we still need unions at all? To hear him tell it, the squeeze on unions is a problem providing its own solution. Union enrollment is down because the problem unions are supposed to correct is no longer much of a problem. On the surface level, the argument sounds good. But dig a little deeper and it reveals itself to be specious at best. Using the same line of reasoning, I guess we can conclude that the nationwide nursing shortage is because there arent enough sick people and the decline in enrollment at police academies across the country is because there just isnt enough crime to go around. It makes about as much sense. I dont know what fantasy land the op-ed guy resides in, but in the real world where I live, health care costs for the average worker are going through the roof, virtually no one has a pension to look forward to and wages are getting stretched thinner and thinner. I need to look no further than non-union trucking companies to see this reality. At my last trucking job which was non-unionized health care cost me $90 per week (vs. $0 per week now), my only option for retirement was a partially-funded 401k (as opposed to a fully-funded pension) and I got paid almost eight dollars per hour less than I get paid now. And that was actually a pretty good company. The job I had before that one was such a fucked up experience I dont even want to describe it now for fear of waking up. I might still be stuck in that hellhole and only dreaming that Im typing this. The point is, without the union, my working life would suck. In arguing against unions, the op-ed guy reported that Americans, as a whole, have never been wealthier. He also reported that household income among middle-class Americans is higher now than it has ever been, even adjusted for inflation. All of that is true. What he didnt say was that nearly all middle-class families earn that extra money by having both Mom and Dad working full-time. What he forgot to mention was in the last forty years the top 20% in America have seen a nearly 100% gain in their annual income while the rest of us have seen about a 20% or so gain and thats with both parents working! If youre older than thirty, ask yourself, did your Mom work outside of the house? Maybe she did, maybe she didnt. Now ask, did your grandmother work outside of the house? Ill bet the majority didnt.
Now ask yourself this question. If youre a woman do you work full-time? If youre a man does your girlfriend or wife work full-time? Ill bet they do. If you factor in the additional worker in most households, Id argue that middle-class and working-class incomes have gone DOWN in the last forty years. Not up at all. Meanwhile, I deliver imported Italian tile and bamboo flooring and flat-screen televisions to the top 20% all day everyday and I can report with confidence that not many of the Moms in La Jolla or Del Mar or Rancho Santa Fe are out working 40+ hours per week unless theyre doing so by choice. And good for them. I wish every mother could make that choice if she wanted to. Now, on to the music, shall we? Gil Scott-Heron is known as a Black revolutionary, a poet who fought fiercely for the rights of Black people in America and around the world. What few know about Gil is he also consistently fought for the working class of all races. Over and over, Gil sang about and talked about the plight of the ordinary working man and woman. When he did, race would scarcely, if ever, be mentioned. Part of Gils brilliance was he recognized a long, long time ago that race was just one part of the system of oppression in America. Here, in America, class warfare is the real deal. If racism is a symptom, classism is the illness itself. Gil Scott-Heron may have started out in 1971 as an angry young revolutionary, spouting racially-charged polemics, but my man was also twenty-two years old at the time. Ten year later, when Gil cut Blue Collar (from the Moving Target LP), he was older, wiser and in tone at least, quieter. He realized that the battle for equality wasnt just in the urban centers where most of the black and Latino folk are, but also between the cities and the towns, where youll find mostly working-class white folk, many of whom are dealing with the same or similar economic pressures as working class black people deal with in Chicago or L.A. or NYC. You cant name where I aint been down, Gil sings, Cause there aint nowhere I aint been done. A couple years earlier, Gil cut a track named Three Miles Down (from the out-of-print LP Secrets) in which he focused on coal miners, not exactly the first profession that comes to mind when one thinks of black people. Gil likens working in a coal mine to working in a graveyard. Except in this case, youre actually working in the graveyard because there aint no sunshine underground. Since 1978 when Gil first recorded Three Miles Down, the song has become one of his most-performed live numbers. Well include both the original (which is more affecting) and the live version (which is a lot longer and, as unlikely as it may seem, very funny. BTW, the live version is from a set named Tales Of Gil Scott-Heron. Its out-of-print as well.) Weve got something of a blues theme going, so lets go to a spoken-word piece in which Gil breaks down the meaning of the blues. The poem H20 Gate Blues is an example of Gils always-brilliant political commentary (its available on The Mind Of Gil Scott-Heron). I remember hearing this piece back when I was 10 or 11 years old. I used to play it over and over, having not even the slightest idea what Gil was talking about but being totally captivated by the sound of his voice. His confidence, his dexterity, his timing its a beautiful thing even if you cant understand the words. And again, youll hear how Gil uses his breakdown of the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal to talk about the class system in America and around the world.
Lets go back to 1971. Pieces Of A Man was Gils first foray into full-out song-writing and singing. (Hed previously released Small Talk At 125th & Lenox which was a collection of poetry set to drumming, Last Poets style.) The cut I want to mention from this album is Save The Children. Theres one couplet in particular that stands out:
My little Tommy he said he wants to be a fireman And little Mary she said she got to teach school
Little Tommy and little Mary want to be a fireman and a school teacher? What a cliché, right? Yes, and I think intentionally so. Even in 1971, even right on top of the Black Power era, I believe Gil was already singing about class inequality. When he said weve got to do something to save the children, I dont think he meant we have to save them from death or prison or anything of the sort. I think he meant we need to save them from things like shrinking wages, virtually non-existent health care and empty pension accounts. He meant, ordinary people deserve good lives too. Thats the reason, I think, that he chose typical American names like Tommy and Mary and thats the reason he chose such obvious middle-class jobs as fireman and school teacher. He was saying, we have to save the ordinary dreams of ordinary people because we are the ordinary people. As I look around at the outsourcing of American jobs, the ever-increasing number of workers without health care and the almost-daily news of corporate buy outs, mergers and lay-offs, Im not so sure that weve followed Gils advice.Mtume ya Salaam
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The Great Goodness of Gils Music
Gil represents the best of conscious black artists. And, ironically, the worst. His work is sterling. Being a junkie is shit. His will to create must be off the charts. How else could he produce even as he is a dope fiend, i.e. someone for whom there are but two dominant realities: 1. Being high and 2. Getting high. But beyond working through his problems of substance abuse, and beyond the general high quality of his artistic work there is an important element that separates Gil from other conscious songwriters, performers and spoken word artists. Gil Scott has a sharply defined and brilliantly articulated working class consciousness. He knows the real basis of the differences and problems within contemporary American society is rooted in class warfare. Gil is clear about that war and is unstinting in boldly and cogently addressing class struggle, a struggle which most of us dont think about, not to mention include as a focal point of our artwork.
Beyond the great goodness of the music and the beauty of his delivery, I am convinced that people around the world respond to Gil addressing the concerns of people whom society forces to work (and work hard) just to eek out a meager living. Throwing the spotlight on class struggle not only appeals to the majority of people in todays world, a working class focus also appeals across generational lines. Im adding Alien and This Is A Prayer For Everybody to the jukebox and Im also including a live version of Save The Children. Alien is an old song first recorded in 1979 and released on the now-out-of-print album called 1980. Dig, over thirty years ago Gil Scott-Heron was addressing the plight of Hispanic aliens. Hows that for social insight and prophesy in terms of what issues were going to increase in relevancy? The first version is the original 1980 version and the second is a 1994 live recording featuring Ron Holloway on saxophone and Gil introducing the song in Spanish. This Is A Prayer For Everybody is one of my favorite recordings. The movement of the chord choices give off an aura of optimism. The rolling rhythm puts the listener in a relaxed mood. The tenor solo at the end is lyrical and simultaneously jazzy. I used to play this song to end my three hour Sunday morning radio programs. In terms of the lyrics, this is one of the most positive songs ever written but it is a clear-eyed positivity that recognizes there is a lot of wrong but emphatically states that together we can overcome. Or, as Gil says: We must be strong and not become bitter. Which, coming back to Gils personal travails with drug addiction, Gil exemplifies. Regardless of the depth of his problems, he continues to push forward and has not become bitter. The absence of bitterness is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Gil Scott-Heron is an amazing mana brilliant songwriter yes but also an amazing individual who continues strong in the struggle despite his obvious personal contradictions. Viva la revolucion! Viva Gil Scott-Heron!Kalamu ya Salaam
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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 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
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 about 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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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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Gil Scott-Heron was more than the ‘Godfather of Rap’
Excerpts by Earl Ofari Hutchinson
29 May 2011
The irony is that Heron took great pains to distance himself from many of the rap artists that purportedly were influenced by him. He decried their resort to shock, demeaning, and degrading lyrics and words, and their lust for the bling and opulence, at the expense of socially grounded and edgy lyrics that blasted oppression and injustice.
Heron ‘s true importance and legacy was that he was the textbook liberated spirit, a musical social and political griot who refused to compromise or tone down his scathing political attacks on the establishment. Heron didn’t just hector, pick at and tweak the establishment to protest racism and the struggles against injustice. He was a thought provoking musical educator. And nothing was off limits. He railed at the pardon of Richard Nixon on “We Beg Your Pardon.” He lashed out at government lies, deceit and corruption in the Watergate scandal on “”H2O Gate Blues.”
He was outraged at the murder of Jose Campos Torres, an army vet murdered by two Houston police officers, on “Jose Campos Torres.” He took a shot at the spending on space exploration with so many problems on Earth on “Space Shuttle.” He mocked America’s bicentennial hoopla in 1976 on “Bicentennial Blues.” He lambasted prison abuses following the Attica prison uprising on “The Prisoner.”
His landmark album Winter in America was at both a grim, bitter, look at racial and political oppression in America and optimistic call for the forces of hope and change to renew the struggle against it. His equally signature From South Africa to South Carolina forcefully and brilliantly linked the struggles of African and African-Americans against apartheid,racism, colonialism and neo-colonialism. To Heron, the struggles were one and the same. The oppressor was one and the same, and those struggling against it shared a common bond.
The other mark of Heron’s genius was that he did not just wage a bitter lyrical battle against the purveyors of oppression. He did it with style, wit, and humor. There was a sort of impishness in his satirizing and poking fun at everyone from Nixon to the mainstream civil rights leaders of the day.
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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
27 May 2012
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 May 2012