Track of the Day: 'Washington, D.C.'

More

Past TracksGil Scott-Heron's music arrived in the musician-as-journalist tradition of Phil Ochs. Political statement came first. You don't see much of this anymore. Music, after all, is only tangentially related to politics. Otherwise, songwriting would suffer all the limitations of political speech. Lawyers would need to vet beats, and reams of legal research would need to accompany every Katy Perry track. And few would do it as well as Gil-Scott Heron.

Heron had the power to distill moments in time down to a tune; in the case of "Washington D.C.," he encapsulated the social discrepancies of power, poverty, and race in the nation's capital in mid-summer. If someone were to bottle and sell D.C. in the 1970s, they would have a hard time doing better than the video for the track. The swelter and the languid atmosphere alongside Gil Scott's own variety of simple Stevie-Wonder soul is the perfect backdrop to casually mention how incomprehensible it is that one of the richest countries in the world can't seem to feed its own citizens. The winking tone makes the tough message go down all the more easily.



Purchase on iTunes: Gil Scott Heron / "Washington, D.C."

new track button.png

Jump to comments
Presented by

Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones is a Washington, D.C.-based writer whose work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, Morning News, Washington City Paper, and the Awl.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

Just In