America isn’t the same tortured nation it was when Gil Scott-Heron suggested that “the revolution will not be televised.”
That’s not to say this country has solved every problem it had when Scott-Heron famously made that pronouncement in his 1970 poem.
It is to say that in part because of the consciousness-raising of Scott-Heron and other politically oriented artists, this nation was confronted with its racism, sexism, classism, militarism, and myriad addictions, and led into meaningful dialogues, if not solutions.
Scott-Heron died Friday at age 62, having lived a life as full of promise and misery as the land he rhythmically critiqued. He was among the pantheon of black spoken-word artists, including Amiri Baraka, the Last Poets, Nikki Giovanni, and Sonia Sanchez, who helped usher America from the civil rights movement to the black-power era.
Scott-Heron’s own demons — crack addiction and several jail stints — prevented the success he should have had. But with songs like “The Bottle” and “Angel Dust,” he urged others to avoid his mistakes. And his cautions to the nation, like this one from “B Movie,” remain relevant: “America has changed from a producer to a consumer. And all consumers know … the producer names the tune.”