Gil Scott-Heron

By James Fallows

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/05/gil-scott-heron/239620/