I heard of the death of Gil Scott-Heron on twitter last night and it brought back many memories from my childhood.
I grew up with the poetry and music Gil Scott-Heron because my Dad and Uncle were "cool cats" from the 60s and 70s who were down and had swagger before it became an internet meme. They can occasionally throw out words like "ya dig" and "on the black hand side." After a couple beers they might be inclined to spout spoken word poetry. Seriously they are cool. They also loved Gil Scott-Heron.
You see his poetry and music spoke for many who experienced the turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s in America, especially the Black experience during that time. His poem The Revolution Will Not Be Televised can be easily quoted from many who grew up during that time. In this video Gil discusses what the poem means. Another great song of the era was Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) written by Marvin Gaye, if you want to get an idea of the time check out Gil's cover of the song.
My Uncle Richard was a Vietnam veteran and would discuss the "shit" (his words) that happened over there. He had photo albums littered with photos, news clippings and poems he wrote while he was overseas and I would eagerly browse them when I came over his house. One of my favorite quotes when I asked him how he survived the war was, "You see the problem was, these guys would go to Vietnam sane and cool but once you see that shit you can't be sane or cool afterwards. Now, when I went to Vietnam I was already crazy so it didn't effect me the way it effected others. Those other cats came back to the States and became crazy, I was just me."
Gil's poetry articulately depicted the frustrations and plight of many African Americans but he also sung about the hopefulness and beauty. I encourage you to listen to I Think I'll Call It Morning, Your Daddy Loves You, A Lovely Day, Lady Day and John Coltrane and It's Your World.
Pieces of a Man album is perfect... every single track.
I was trying to compile some of my favorites by this great artist when I realized there isn't anything he recorded I didn't like. So search around and get into Gil Scott-Heron... his words will help paint the picture of a particular time in American history.
- The Last Poets
- Black Power Movement
- Spoken Word
- Black America 1970 - Time Magazine Article, April 6, 1970