Saturday, 28 May 2011
Gil Scott-Heron - An appreciation
The Streetlamp team were saddened today to hear of the untimely death, yesterday, of poet, author and visionary singer-songwriter Gil Scott-Heron. It was only this March that we featured his acclaimed , and still astonishingly powerful 40 years later, song; The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, in our article on Skuff and The Free Hetherington.
We hoped at the time that we were doing our own little bit to introduce Gil's work to a new generation of listeners who might recognise his genius and go on to be inspired by him, just as we were. Little did we suspect that a mere two months later, Gil would be dead. And yet, here at The Streetlamp, we fervently hope that it doesn't have to be that way, and that in some way he can still live on.
You youngsters who've only heard commercial, sanitised, 'black' US music go and listen to him now; listen to the true voice of black militant activism railing against government and corporate hypocrisy. You, who have only heard the worst of lazy, sexist, cartoon-violent rap music used as a means to make record companies rich; listen now to truly earnest and intellectual, yet uncompromising and raw, street poetry. You, who think that political music can only ever be empty symbolism and that music cannot carry real political power; go and listen to him, really listen, to the messages he gave to us. Listen to the beautiful, sorrowful, passionate anger contained therein and let it fill your soul. You, who think that musicians and performers have to play by the music industry rules in order to get your 'product' in the spotlight; think again, and then go back to your bedrooms, your rehearsal rooms, your garages and prepare to make some noise; a meaningful, fierce and impassioned noise, fit to set the world ablaze. Forty years ago Gil Scott-Heron spoke of the abuse of power by the powerful, the grabbing of resources by the wealthy, the hypocrisy of the media, the lies of politicians; he spoke to you, he's still speaking, and he's urging you to do so too. Listen!
Addendum: The wonder of Gil of course is that he was embraced by both Hip-Hop and the Punks, and virtually any leftist thinker at that.
Why he holds a special place for me is not just that his father Gilbert Heron was the first black footballer to play for Glasgow Celtic(earning the slightly patronising nickname 'The Black Arrow'), but also because back in the mid to late 1980s we used to frequent local Frug-a-gogo beirkeller/discotheque/meat-market McQues in Bannockburn and, amidst the wafts of hairspray, jutting shoulder pads and streaked hair, the DJ would occasionally slip Gil's 'The Bottle' in amongst the endless extended remixes of mid-80s chart prattle.
Twas truly an oasis of beauty in a torrent of stagnant bilge.
R.I.P Gil....and take it away Brother Soul....