Gil Scott Heron
Gil Scott-Heron surfaced in the early 1970s
with albums entitled What’s Going on and
There’s a Riot Goin’ On. By 1970,
many people who were struggling for civil rights
started to focus less attention on the need
for equality and more attention on the need
for Black Power. The Civil Rights Movement was
weakening because the various groups that were
a part of it were fighting with themselves.
As a result, their attempts to persuade the
government of the need for change failed. This
change was evident in popular Black as well.
The lyrics spoke less of the need to work together
and took on a more belligerent tone.
This new approach opened the door to the music
of Gil Scott-Heron. His was angry and his music
reflected the attitudes of oppressed people
who also were angry. He was angry that the struggle
for freedom had been cut short. He was not willing
to compromise. Heron was brave enough to take
a stand and talk about the problems he saw in
the United States. His voice highlighted the
country’s mistakes and focused attention
on public apathy. He was convicted in his belief
that the struggle to be free would not be easy.
Heron’s song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised illustrates the nature of his music:
There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock news
and no pictures of hairy armed women liberationists
and Jacki Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom Jones,
Johnny Cash Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be right back
after a message about a white tornado, white lightening, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your bedroom,
a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.
(©1990 RCA; From: www.globaldarkness.com)
These lyrics show both hostility and courageousness.
Heron suggested that the issues facing black
Americans were being ignored. He mocked the
lifestyle of the privileged class, the things
that mainstream society views as important.
Heron’s work is admirable because he stepped
forward to confront social problems. Even if
this was a small step, it made a big impact.
He was tired of oppression and wanted to stop
it, so he used his talents to bring important
issues to the surface.