I wrote this piece, http://wapo.st/mxt7Ej in less than optimal conditions. It was late on Friday night after a big angry bear of a day and I was beat. Then I heard the news. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. Even though the scathing social critic/poet/magnificent singer part of the Gil Scott-Heron had been scarce for years, I never took the role of dispassionate critic. No, instead I remained hopeful fan, maintaining faith that the gaunt, drug addicted man that Gil had become would straighten up, fly right and drop some bombs of the avatars of the Fox News Channel. Think about it for a second, Gil in his prime against the right wing commentariat, fun stuff indeed.
I’m delighted by the piece and the fantastic editing on it. All weekend appreciations of Gil cited “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” we argue that he’s much, much more than that. And he was. “17th St.” fortified my desire to move to New York City as did so many of his other songs. I spent much of my teenaged years living in a suburban-like townhouse in Dallas. Gil’s was a voice reminding me that the world was much bigger than what I could experience, and that elsewhere, there were kindred spirits. I’d just have to get offa my ass and go find them.
Gil’s stopped being the idol of my youth a long time ago, and his death simply makes his absence official. I don’t think of death as a loss, but as an addition to the responsibility we have to maintain and represent. We need to revive the guerilla of those ’70s album covers, and use the media at our disposal to create updates of H2Ogate Blues.