Gil Scott Heron The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Written by Delmar Napue
After another disappointing release from Kanye West last year I went back in his catalog and decided to listen to some of the music that I felt made him great. I start with Late Registration, An album that was filled with soul beats, one of a kind features, and most importantly, samples. I’m skimming song after song until I reach the 7th track “My Way Home” featuring another Chicago legend, Common. I press play and suddenly I’m hit with a smooth, slowed down, jazzy voice singing “I’m on my way home”. Curiosity sets in as I’m now googling who it was Kanye sampled until the name Gil Scott Heron pops up.
Originally the only song I bothered to listen to was “Home Is Where the Hatred Is”. Like now, at the time I didn’t know what I wanted from life. I didn’t know who I was genuinely close with, I felt alone, like the relationships I had forged with the people I knew where purely circumstantial. I didn’t know if I was in the place I needed to be to continue to grow, I felt like home (my city) was just too deep in a fog for me to actually gain a real sense of clarity without leaving. When I heard lines like “I left three days ago, but no one seems to know I’m gone” it resonated. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of knowing a person through and through. Knowing what they actually care for and if they truly care for you is a thought that was constantly being pushed to the forefront when I heard that line. What also kept me hooked on the song is when Scott says “Home is where the hatred is. Home is filled with pain. And it might not be such a bad idea if I never, never went home again”. To me this was a stab at the made up fork in the rode that at the time I thought I faced. To either stay home and continue to build on what I knew as myself, mistakes and all, or to flee elsewhere, start from square one and discover me.
Looking back I choose option 1, recently I’ve learned you have to keep going. The tracks “I Think I’ll Call It Morning” and “Or Down You Fall” are very much supporters of that theory. One song nudges you to create your own happiness with lines like “And I think I’ll call it morning from now on. Why should I survive on sadness? And tell myself I’ve got to be alone? Why should I subscribe to this world’s madness? Knowing that I’ve got to live on”. While the ladder straight up says
“The world is just a simple circle.
You’ve got to keep on turning. Yeah, You’ve got to keep on turning. Or down you fall”.
There’s many messages and urges throughout this album. Largely political and ideological, Scott talks about the mess each generation leaves after itself. How kids are having the time of their lives enjoying their youth not knowing the stress and hardships they’ll face.
Scott also dives into the topic of race, highlighting the hypocrisies and inequality Black Americans are faced with in society. The theme I connected with most was individually. Like with “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” the track “Pieces of a Man” interest me greatly. Whenever I think about this song I find myself thinking of The Jokers(comic book villain) monologue to Batman in the character’s origin movie The Killing Joke. In the movie the Joker is trying to hammer home the point that all it takes is one bad day to go mad. That he’s really not that different from everyone else, that in reality it just takes one action, one event, for someone to be pushed over the edge. On “Pieces of a Man” Scott takes us back to view his father as he viewed him as a child and now through the eyes of a grown man. Recounting the event of his father being laid off and the toll it took. Going back to the theory of the Joker it only takes one bad day. And at the end of this song despite Scott’s father being arrested what matters most is that they are only arresting pieces of a man. Overall, this album is amazing. A classic without a doubt. No matter what background you come from this album can be appreciated for the thought provoking piece of art it is, one listen can change a life, I’m proof.