Gil Scott Heron – R.I.P.

I remember listening to him the first time, in my early twenties. He had so many complex answers to so many complex things. He spoke in a language this disaffective slacker did not understand. He came from the 60s, from

a time when civil disobedience was a requisite youthful trait. A few years later I saw a documentary he was in, where the camera follows him around for a day in Washington, DC, and he used this as a metaphor for America itself. On camera Gil was this older dude with the kind of comfort on camera to where he should have had his own kids show, his own version of the Electric Company.

As a kid he could have taught me to count, to lock in to poetry at a younger age. Heron with his voice of wisdom and the comfort that came with it could have taught me anything.

I loved how comfortable he was, dropping all the little schemes of America, playing the US as behemoth monster out of control, and how he made sense of the monster by connecting it to the big system of global politics. When he spoke about the great machine of America, I felt his hand on my shoulder, whispering all the things once said by those gone by: Huey Newton, Angela Davis, Malcolm X. To me his voice rose above all others, mainly because of how, with that soft but confident voice of his, Gil Scott Heron turned his anger into the gentle whisper of art.

 

 

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