Gil Scott-Heron

The music I most associate with my first stage of living in Washington, in the Watergate era of the 1970s when I was working for the Washington Monthly, was the voice and poetry of Gil Scott-Heron, who was then in his early-/mid-20s. When I think of sitting and sweating in the non-airconditioned Washington Monthly office late on stifling DC nights, I think as well of Gil Scott-Heron's immediately recognizable voice in the background, on the radio. To me it was the theme music of that time. Of course this was a voice you stopped and listened to, rather than half-noticing as background effect.

He really was a beautiful singer, in addition to his poetry -- and his political influence, which has been most discussed on the occasion of his death. The only drawback of his being so well known for 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised' is that his singing doesn't sound so great on that song. I preferred ones like this, which certainly is political in its own way:



Ta-Nehisi Coates posted an appreciation of GSH this morning. I am surprised at how moved I am to hear of his death. Sympathies to his family, and gratitude for his life and work.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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