Gil Scott-Heron: The Bottle

1 Apr

Gil Scott-Heron's Spirits

Gil Scott-Heron's 1994 album Spirits

Birthday greetings to musician/poet/social voice Gil Scott-Heron, who celebrates No. 62 today.

He once wrote the song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised; if he were to write it again today, it would probably acknowledge the revolution would have commercials and a corporate sponsor.

Scott-Heron blended rhyme, rhythm and injustice — augmented by the flute playing of Brian Jackson — into a string of great albums through the 70s and 80s. And though his songs championed the powerless and plight of the minorities, they had crossover appeal — they were popular on college campuses and beyond, and his concerts (at least anecdotally) were uniquely mixed.

His phrasing was memorable and powerful and undaunted.

  • “Democracy,” he said in Winter in America, “is ragtime on the corner.”
  • “What’s the word. Tell me brother, have you heard from Johannesburg,” he asked at the height of the struggle against South Africa’s apartheid.
  • “Halderman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean. It follows a pattern if you know what I mean,” he said, and repeated for effect, in the H2Ogate Blues, whose scathing criticism of America went well beyond Watergate.

Scott-Heron attended Lincoln University, an historically black college, outside Philadelphia, not coincidentally, the alma mater of poet Langston Hughes.

In recent years, he has been troubled by drug use and incarceration, though he was released in 2007 and released his most recent album thereafter.

Here’s wishing for him on his birthday the best gift of all: peace.

“I have no idea how many times I’ve been asked what I call my music,” wrote Scott-Heron on the liner notes to the 1994 album Spirits. ” . . . In truth I call what I have been granted the opportunity to share “gifts.” I would like to personally claim to be the source of the melodies and ideas that have come through me, but that is just the point. Many of the shapes of sound and concepts have come upon me from no place I can trace: Notes and chords I’d never learned, thoughts and pictures I’d never seen. And all as clear as a sky untouched by cloud or smog or smoke or haze. Suddenly. Magically. As if transferred to me without effort.”


One Response to “Gil Scott-Heron: The Bottle”


  1. Gil Scott-Heron Dead | Rhymes and Politics - May 27, 2011

    […] Gil Scott-Heron: The Bottle ( […]

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