Gil Scott-Heron // 1949-2011
So bear with me. This was quite a strange way to be introduced to an artist. There’ll be no mention of Jamie XX, New York State prison or “bluesology”, but you’ve been able to read those kind of obituaries and tributes all over the web and in the papers over the last 48 hours.
In first year of my multimedia degree we completed a module called Social and Economic Studies, which was a whirlwind tour through a few centuries worth of international policy and social change.
The module allowed me the opportunity to be taught by one of DCU’s more interesting lecturers, Mr. Des McGuinness. We liked him so much we made badges with his face on them.
Anyway, that is neither here nor there. As with many of these modules, the lectures were great but the seminars sucked.
To get the necessary credits to pass the module my group and I completed a presentation on the impact of the media on Irish society. I only know this from doing a search through gmail which conveniently keeps a record of my college years, which is handy as God knows my memory doesn’t do a very good job.
It seems I spoke about the impact of the Late Late Show and specifically “The Bishop and the Nightie Affair” that was representative of the loss of innocence that Uncle Gaybo brought to Irish homes in the 60s. I have NO recollection of doing this, but if my email search told me I did it, then I guess I must have done it.
(Unless of course I’d sent my old robot, MYGEL, which I’d engineered to look and talk like me for the purpose of attending social functions I had no interest in. It was quite a successful endeavour except I’d given him a deeper voice and less of a bulbous widow’s peak which meant I was found out pretty quickly. And that’s how my first marriage ended. But that’s a story for another day…)
The only positive experience I had from those seminars was the fact we got to watch some great documentaries. The best one I remember was about a coup d’ete in Venezuela which saw President Hugo Chávez removed from office for two days in April 2002. Amazingly the entire 74 minute documentary is online, and embedded below. If you have an hour to spare it’s well worth watching and parallels can be drawn with Egypt and Libya if you’re so inclined.
A television crew from Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTÉ happened to be recording a documentary about Chávez during the events of April 11, 2002. Shifting focus, they followed the events as they occurred. During their filming, the crew recorded images of the events that they say contradict explanations given by Chávez’s opposition, the private media, the US State Department, and then White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. The documentary says that the coup was the result of a conspiracy between various old guard and anti-Chávez factions within Venezuela and the United States.
The documentary was called “The Revolution will not be televised”. It was great. I had heard the phrase which gave it its title before but never knew where it had came from. Needless to say I turned to the internet. Turned out it was a famous song by a man known as “the black Bob Dylan” and “the godfather of rap”, Gil Scott-Heron.
Turns out he was a pretty cool dude. I took a bit of an interest then but it wasn’t until he made a comeback in 2010 with his first album in 16 years, I’m New Here, that I really read up on his amazing back-story; poetry, prison, HIV, drugs, politics and that special voice.
And now, just when he seemed to be getting things back on track while a whole new generation (including me) was getting turned on to his music, he sadly passes away.
A tragic end to a troubled life.
Hip-hop godfather Gil Scott-Heron’s out on parole, trying to stay clean, and ready for Carnegie Hall. [nymag]
Archive: Gil Scott-Heron [irishtimes.com On the Record blog]
Gil Scott-Heron R.I.P. [pitchfork]