It was a truly modern info moment. I’m doing my goodnight ‘My Vinyl’ “Tweet” of the day into the Twittosphere, when next in the stream and before mine can appear pops, “Breaking News! Gil Scott Heron dead at 60.” last night. Immediately I reply to the Tweeter of bad news, “ 4 REal? Oh Sad…major part of my musical comeuppance in college radio via dancefloor-filler, “In The Bottle” RIP Bro Heron”
“Wow!” I thought, “ I’m on Twitter and witness history as one of (maybe) the first to know this!” one of the reasons I have grown to tolerate that platform is that appeals to the subliminal sense or need for immediacy of current events in its own special way!
I started to write this then and there; nope, too close to “Au Revoir” for-the-night time after a physically strenuous Friday and mentally gnarly week. Therefore, here we are now with an homage to my one Gil Scott Heron vinyl, “Winter In America”. Obviously, this one should be brief, but no promises, okay? 😀
As time went by, I was proud of him as a militant messenger as I like to see part of myself being in the mirror. Principled and even brutally eloquently relevant and truthful in his succinct lyrics and rhymes, I knew intrinsically that he would be “alright” and was a protector and purveyor of the thoughts about our place as Black Americans in society that most people would only think and not say. What’s more, he did it with music, one of my favorite things, and that made him all the more kool. This album felt like conversation as well as a class.
I probably first heard “In The Bottle” on the Frankie Crocker-programmed WBLS-FM of 1974, although another party or DJ could have been just as timely. All I knew was that it was about a guy who drank too much as imitated by Gil from the jam’s outset, but who cared? When that first note hit, the guys were up and asking the chicks to dance with them en-masse! “A dolla-nine-get-a-bottle o’wine, a dolla-nine-get-a bottle a-wine, in the bot-tle…”
I remember getting amusing requests from cats who would saunter up to my booth and request, “Hey, ‘Man, you got any Gil Scott Heroin, Brotha?” To which I learned to sometimes reply, “No, my Brother, we don’t do no hard drugs up in this booth…” (read again to catch the subtle comedy if you didn’t “get-it”), before I’d relent and tell him I “got’cha covered!”. That smacks me in my funny bone annoyingly if you’ve read the stated causes of his death.
Brian Jackson got the co-top billing on this album, which as I write this, I wish I knew the story of how I came to acquire it, or why he did get that recognition and what happened to him. If you know, please write it in a comment below, but he never became as famous as Gil Scott Heron did, and where is he now?
Even though “Winter In America” is the title of my one-and-only vinyl by Gil, the song by the same name came out on his next album, “First Minute of A Brand New Day”. He will probably be remembered by the world’s masses though, for another song/album title, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” which came out right after “Winter”, I believe. Those two LPs set GSH off into the stratocastersphere!
I am sad that his needed voice is now silent too early, but at least being who he was, he left some homework behind for all of us to catch-up on an apply. “Just how blind will America be?” he asked in the wake of the Nixon Watergate scandal . I can rhyme that and say, “these days we continue to see!” Gil Scott Heron performed the serious science with an ironic sense of humor that is lacking among many of the broadcast talking heads here in 2011.
Only sixty-two? That is Scary.
Side Two, track five, “Peace Go With You Brother”.