Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Gil Scott-Heron, one of the fathers of rap music.  He said a lot of things.  One of the things he said was: "All the dreams you show up in are not your own."

They say "Success has a thousand fathers.  Failure is an orphan."  A form of music that couldn't experience much more success than it has over the past 40 years is rap.

People like to debate where rap came from.  The consensus seems to be that "rap" originated with the griots of West Africa, tribal historians, poets and singers who tell their stories to drum beats, accompanied by wind instruments and simple stringed instruments.  

Griots have been around a long, long time.  

More recently, one of the first people to make something like urban American rap music in the modern era was a man named Gil Scott-Heron.  

In 1971, he released his first studio album, called Pieces of a Man, backed by some of the best jazz session musicians of the day.  On that album was a song called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, which many later rappers described as an inspiration, or took pieces from.

Chuck D of Public Enemy said, “rhythmic message music started with him,” and Gil Scott-Heron is the manifestation of the modern word.

For his part, Gil Scott-Heron was critical of rap music.  He referred to himself as a poet and a bluesologist, and said of the rappers of the 1990s:

“They need to study music.  There's a big difference between putting words over some music, and blending those same words into the music.  There's not a lot of humor.  They use a lot of slang and colloquialisms, and you don't really see inside the person.  Instead, you just get a lot of posturing.”

When he was a teenager, Scott-Heron received a full scholarship to attend the Fieldston School, one of the most expensive prep schools in America.  He was one of five black kids at the school, surrounded by the children of the white ruling class. 

During his admissions interview at Fieldston, an administrator asked him, "How would you feel if you see one of your classmates go by in a limousine while you're walking up the hill from the subway?"  Scott-Heron said, "Same way as you.  Y'all can't afford no limousine.  How do you feel?"   

Gil Scott-Heron died on May 27, 2011, from complications of HIV infection.

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