Friday, January 04, 2008

The Revolution May Be Downloaded

Since we live in an age when everything – EVERYTHING – is broadcast and shared, or at least posted on YouTube, you name it, stupid cat tricks, all the porn in the world, car wrecks, people getting attacked by animals, prisoners dancing, cute toddlers, a web-cam universe, it’s hard to imagine that, as the great and long-suffering Gil Scott-Heron said, the revolution will not be televised. The truth is always the same. Or at least this one is. It’s all about turning off and turning in. GSH is so right on target, yet so completely unhinged, so Driftwoodsian, that I can’t quite figure out how we’ve neglected to pour digital ablutions for the man. One part Stevie Wonder, one part Last Poets, one part Aaron Neville and one part Nina Simone, Gil had the scientifically blended mix of black power, tender uplift, outrage, buttery mellisma, soul angst and existential shiver.

If you want to go down a wormhole of how-it-used-to-be only to be left scratching your head in wonderment, not even sure if we, with all our knowing nonsense and apathy, are even the same kind of people today as these near giants of indignation and activism, you can watch footage on YouTube of Gil Scott-Heron from 1990, still singing potent stinging truth.

"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" is Gil Scott-Heron’s anthem. I love how he trots out Glen Campbell AND Rare Earth (!) as examples of MOR lameness. Also name-checked for derision and general suckiness are "hairy-armed women liberationists," "Englebert Humperdink" and "Hooterville Junction."

But Gil Scott-Heron is way more than just message. There’s one little vocal/compositional trick of his that I’ve come to love. It’s when he has the band change keys while he’s in the middle of repeating a phrase or a word. Listen at minute 1:49 on "I Think I’ll Call It Morning," check out how pushes the line "knowing that I’ve got to live on," knocking it up and back a bit. He does it again at 3:08 with the "your troubles" on "Lady Day and John Coltrane." One other tidbit: this record was produced by Impulse maestro Bob Thiele and it includes Ron Carter on bass, Bernard Purdie on drums and Hubert Laws on flute and sax. Dig the reverb on the vocals.

You can listen to an interview with the man, aired on Dec. 11 on WFUV. He performs, too. This man is a genius.

As he wrote on the inside of Pieces of a Man:
"inside you is where life is and not at woolworthless5&10"

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