Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron

As you may already know, Gil Scott-Heron passed away yesterday. The virtually obligatory video link for bloggers is of course "The revolution will not be televised". Listening to it today it seems by turns both relevant and quaint. Maybe it's the implicit assumption that black Americans can't or wont be co-opted. But it still has power.

Scott-Heron composed and released it at a comparatively young age, and I can't help but wonder if he was ever frustrated that the casual music fan only knew him for "revolution", if they even did. I also wonder if he saw the parallels between Nixon's suppression of dissent and Obama's.

The BBC notes that the album he released last year was his first in 16 years; its existence may be bittersweet to many. Possibly this was in part due to various record companies deciding he was no longer commercially viable, in addition to his health difficulties. Maybe sales of his last album from 2010 will enjoy at least a brief uptick. The revolution will be monetized.

16 years. That doesn't necessarily mean his artistic production lay fallow all that time-- for one thing he kept performing, and the concept that a musician or composer has to put out an album to be deemed to be "creating" is a relatively new one, borne of technology, while people have been making music in some fashion or another for thousands of years, without recording it in the modern sense.

A postscript: No, he was not a stand up comic, but I found this brief riff(below) interesting.

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At June 01, 2011 6:01 AM, Blogger Ethan said...

A bit belatedly--thanks for the Jaws bit, I didn't know he was ever that straight-up funny.

Thanks even more for your comments about his "artistic production" during his 16 years with no albums released. It's an excellent point that we don't remember often enough. I've been meaning to write something about it myself.

At June 01, 2011 8:04 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Hi Ethan, I'm glad you liked it, I did too.


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