May 31, 2011

Steve Almond on Gil Scott-Heron


At The Rumpus Steve Almond writes about the lasting influence, political power, and musical genius of Gil Scott-Heron who died on Friday:

This isn’t his obituary. An obituary would require me to cite his accomplishments and transgressions, to refer to him as Mr. Scott-Heron, to traffic in the bogus gravitas that we use to commemorate the dead in print. The entire formula feels completely fucked up and wrong.

If you want to know who Gil Scott-Heron was and why he mattered to me more than any other artist on earth, check this out:

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is frequently mischaracterized as a song about Black Power. It is a song about the tranquilizing effects of screen addiction, about how our compulsion to sit back and watch keeps us from taking action.

More than any single issue, Gil’s essential topic was America, how the nation had fallen away from its moral precepts and into ruin, a condition of spiritual malaise that would eventually deliver us the bigotry and psychotic greed of the Bush Era.

If this makes Gil Scott-Heron sound didactic, the fault is mine, for it is the unique talent of the prophet to convert rage into poetry.

Read the rest Almond’s tribute to Scott-Heron here.

Interesting to note that Scot-Heron also wrote several books, starting with murder-mystery called The Vulture. It’s still in print, thanks to Canongate … but that means you’ve got to go to England to get it.