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The Bottle

June 7, 2011
by

In other significant dead guy news, Gil Scott-Heron died a couple of weeks back. This is my favorite song of his.

Interesting dude, Gil Scott-Heron, and I commend to you his whole obituary (the one from the Guardian is here — the Brits crush us at obits). The New Yorker also did a long piece on him last year that focused on his then-current battle with crack addiction. I liked this little vignette:

Recently, I arrived at his apartment while he was watching fight films with Mimi Little, whom he calls Miss Mimi. Miss Mimi helps run his affairs and those of his company, Brouhaha Music; the living room of his apartment is the company’s office. They were watching Muhammad Ali knock down George Foreman in the eighth round of the Rumble in the Jungle, in Zaire, in 1974. Scott-Heron was wearing baggy gray sweatpants, a red-and-white-striped polo shirt, and white socks, and he stood in front of the television, lifting one foot, then the other, as if the floor were hot. When Foreman collapsed, Scott-Heron pretended to be Ali chastising him as he lay on his back. “That’s the best you can do?” he said. “I had about enough of you.”

“It’s done now,” Little said.

“I thought you could hit,” Scott-Heron said. “You hit like a baby.”

A crowd flooded the ring. “Look at these silly people,” Scott-Heron said. A large black man in a blue blazer wrapped his arms around Ali from behind and lifted him, and Ali waved his arms like a cranky baby. “Brother try to pick up Ali here. He says, ‘Put me down.’ ”

All you could see then of Ali in the blending swarm was his head and shoulders, so he looked like a bust. “Ali’s thirty-two, having been exiled to nowhere,” Scott-Heron said. “Unbelievable odds. I like to see unbelievable odds, because that’s what I’ve been facing all these years. When I feel like giving up, I like to watch this.”

A funny NYC tidbit is that Scott-Heron ended up attending the hoity-toity Fieldston School in Riverdale after one of his teachers in his public high school spotted his writing talent.

I was never that taken with his most famous “song” (if that’s what it was), “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” The lyrics are interesting to read now, because they are kind of brilliant, speak so strongly of their time, and because, as far as I can tell, they have turned out to be entirely incorrect. Rest in peace.

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie 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
bbout a white tornado, white lightning, 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.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. jco permalink
    June 7, 2011 5:48 pm

    Nice post. But, I agree. The revolution is clearly being televised.

  2. June 8, 2011 12:41 am

    The revolution is being Twittered and the revolutionaries are Tweeting that they had Mexican food for dinner. Not what I expected from way back in 1969. Disappointing, to say the least.

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