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Rest in Peace: Gil Scott-Heron (1949 – 2011)

New York Times > Gil Scott-Heron, Voice of Black Culture, Dies at 62

Gil Scott-Heron, the poet and recording artist whose syncopated spoken style and mordant critiques of politics, racism and mass media in pieces like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” made him a notable voice of black protest culture in the 1970s and an important early influence on hip-hop, died on Friday at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 62 and had been a longtime resident of Harlem.


The Daily Swarm > The Daily Swarm Interview: Gil Scott-Heron — The Revolution Will Not Be Blogged by Andy Gensler:

I don’t think many people realize how funny “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is–lines about Rocky & Bullwinkle and Glen Campbell and the Beverley Hillbillies.

[GS-H] That’s how we wrote it. There’s a lot of wit in there. What we were talking about man is that like you never get anything done, you never see anything that helps you. You need to be out doing stuff. The Revolution takes place in your mind. Once you decide to look at the other side of it seriously and see if there’s any value to it. We were the ones with the bibles and the flags and shit but they were calling us militants and you all son of a bitches were the ones with the guns.

But you were also well-versed in pop culture –“Put a Tiger in Your Tank or It Goes Better With a Coke’ –a lot of the song is lampooning pop culture.

[GS-H] That’s what we were trying to do. We were trying to show people how silly the shit was they were wasting their time on when they needed to be trying to help.

But something about “Revolution” just resonated, it hadn’t been said before like that. Either you were a revolutionary or maybe you were a comedian.

[GS-H] It was up to people to decide which (laughs).

What do you make of people crediting you with starting hip-hop?

[GS-H] I don’t know if I can take the blame for it.

“My life has been guided by women, but because of them, I am a man.”
–Gil Scott-Heron, “On Coming from a Broken Home (Pt. 2),”
from the album I’m New Here (2010)

8 thoughts on “Rest in Peace: Gil Scott-Heron (1949 – 2011)

  1. After you posted, Li-An, I downloaded and listened to Gil Scott-Heron’s 2010 album, I’m New Here, and I have to say, I like it very much also. You can hear the years creeping into Scott-Heron’s voice, but he’s still in fine form. In fact, I’d argue that the slightly rough edges this time around add a certain poignancy to Scott-Heron’s highly introspective, near valedictory, lyrics. To my ear, a few of the spoken-word pieces — “The Crutch” and “Running,” especially — seem strongly reminiscent of certain compositions in Laurie Anderson’s landmark 1982 album Big Science; I’m not enough of a Scott-Heron fan to know if this was a new direction for him, but it did make me wonder if he felt any affinity for Anderson’s work, back in the day. Anyway, it’s great to know that Gil Scott-Heron ended his career on a high note.


  2. There is an other album just released with songs completely remixed. But I found it to strange to buy for the moment (I buy everyting). It was the only album of Scott-Heron I heard for the moment.


  3. So I went and listened to the “other album” and my immediate reaction is that, while the remixed album, entitled We’re New Here, is definitely different than the original, it’s also definitely not better — not by a long shot.

    Seems to me that what We’re New Here mainly does is make it more difficult to hear what Gil Scott-Heron has to say. In the original album, Scott-Heron’s voice, with all its age-imposed frailties and limitations, is front and centre; it’s like he’s right in the room with you, sharing his thoughts, one last time, about his upbringing, his personal demons, his career, his community, etc. In the remix, that voice — the voice of experience — is more submerged in the mix and has to compete with Jaime xx’s beats and instrumentation, which, unfortunately, don’t strike me as particularly original in their own right, though such music be all the rage right now.

    I can’t shake the feeling that “We Are New Here” isn’t an album for Gil Scott-Heron fans; rather, it’s an album designed to introduce Scott-Heron to youngsters who wouldn’t bother checking out the old master without the involvement of one of their own.


  4. Here are the “lyrics” to my favourite spoken-word piece on I’m New Here:

    Gil Scott-Heron: Running

    Because I always feel like running
    Not away, because there is no such place
    Because, if there was I would have found it by now
    Because it’s easier to run,
    Easier than staying and finding out you’re the only one… who didn’t run
    Because running will be the way your life and mine will be described
    As in “the long run”
    Or as in having given someone a “run for his money”
    Or as in “running out of time”
    Because running makes me look like everyone else,
    Though I hope there will ever be cause for that
    Because I will be running in the other direction,
    Not running for cover
    Because if I knew where cover was,
    I would stay there and never have to run for it
    Not running for my life,
    Because I have to be running for something of more value
    To be running and not in fear
    Because the thing I fear cannot be escaped, eluded, avoided,
    Hidden from, protected from, gotten away from,
    Not without showing the fear as I see it now
    Because closer, clearer, no sir, nearer
    Because of you and because of that nice
    That you quietly, quickly be causing
    And because you’re going to see me run soon
    And because you’re going to know why I’m running then
    You’ll know then
    Because I’m not going to tell you now


  5. Hey Li-An! This morning by email, I received the message you tried to post. But for some reason it’s not here on the blog. I’m not sure what happened, but I do like the version of “New York Is Killing Me” that you linked to:

    “New York Is Killing Me” is my favourite non-spoken-word piece on I’m New Here. The addition of the sound of a train running down the tracks on the alternative version was a good choice. And the removal of the repeated pattern of clapping sounds was probably for the best, though it is kind of catchy.

    In fact, I just downloaded the video and converted it to MP3. 🙂


  6. BTW, I just figured out what happened to your message, Li-An. For some reason, WordPress thought it was spam and moved it automatically to the “Spam” folder. As you can see, I have now moved your message from the “Spam” folder into the comments section (see #6 above).


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