Brother Gil

29 May 2011, 3:16 pm

Gil Scott-Heron, 1 April 1 1949 – 27 May 2011

It must have been in 1982 or 1983 when I first heard Gil Scott-Heron, although it would only be years later that I figured out that it was him I had heard back then. A friend who was a young anti-apartheid activist and involved in a small organisation operating outside of the ANC’s ideology, would come and visit with tapes of Nation of Islam speeches and what were, I realised years later, selected tracks off Gil Scott-Heron’s debut album, Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (1970). To us then, the performers were some anonymous poets producing raps aligned to the black nationalism we were exploring. The wit and stridency of “The revolution will not be televised” and “Whitey on the moon” appealed to us as rapidly politicising teenagers in early 1980s South Africa.

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Still living in a B-movie

15 February 2010, 4:56 pm

…We just call it a blockbuster now.

“B-movie” (1981, off Reflections) has always been my favourite Gil Scott-Heron track, far more so than his most well-known “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (1971, off Pieces of a Man), which now has lost it’s spark in any case through far too many ironic, counter-ironic and mangled quotations and misinterpretations. Obama’s election to presidency of the USA, for instance, led to many people saying that, finally, the revolution was being televised, trying to show they are hip to Gil Scott-Heron but taking a dig at him – his song  had finally lost its ostensible analytical edge. Few paused to think that the famous line really means that if it is televised, it is not a revolution. Which is really what the song, as analysis of the entertainment industry, is saying.

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