Music/Popular Culture

R.I.P Gil Scott-Heron

7 replies »


  2. What does it say about a black sub-culture when a drug addict and ex-convict is singled out for tribute on his death?

    The American black sub-culture, which is based on admiration for drug use, pimps, “gangster rap,” crime, anti-social behavior, juvenile violence, and cultivated ignorance, etc., is the reason for the wholesale decline of black society.

    Gill Scott-Heron was a charter member of this sub-culture. In his own words, “If you’ve gotta pay for all the bad things you’ve done… I’ve got a big bill coming.”

    What was his contribution to black society? Nothing. His description of the despair and degradation of the lumpen-proletariat (a worthless, degenerate class comprised of criminals and anti-social elements) has no social value except providing voyeuristic interest for pampered, liberal whites. It does not describe the life and aspirations of common American blacks.

    It’s been said, one should only say something good about the dead. But if that includes pimps, drug dealers, violent criminals, gangster rappers, etc., well, he’s dead, good!

    The black sub-culture that is based on crime and violence should be wiped out. The creative artists who extol this class are to be rejected.

  3. Little Fred,

    Maybe it says a similar thing to the way white culture singled out a guy like Richard Nixon when he died, or Jack Kerouac, or a long list of other white people who’ve not been perfect little angels.

    Please note that i’m actually taking the time to respond to your comment, even though it’s really not worth even acknowledging your existence. You seem to think that the lumpen proletariat Heron wrote about chose the despair and degradation, or you think that they could/should just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

    He was arrested only a decade ago for cocaine possession. Something the average, white banker wouldn’t see time for. No intent to distribute, no organized crime affiliation. The man had a master’s degree from John Hopkins…he wasn’t Easy E.

    I hope, at least, that you’re a black man. If so, you’ve got a valid sentiment that i happen to disagree with. If you’re a white guy though, it sounds like you’re a half-step away from the Aryan Nation.

    …maybe it’s just that you don’t like it when a man like Heron points a keen finger at the ugly underbelly of America.

    I almost included text with this video. I was going to write something like, “The scariest thing for white America is an educated, articulate black man who’s not dying to make himself white enough to fit into the American dream.”

  4. Ordinarily, I’d dismiss remarks such as those made by Little Fred, but since this is a moment when the public at large is focused on Gil’s life, one feels compelled to set the historical record straight for him and for those inclined to share his views.

    First, anyone familiar with the body of Gil-Scot Heron’s work knows that he was hardly the proto-gangsta rapper that Fred makes him out to be. Take the time, Fred, and listen to songs such as “Johannesburg,” “Winter in America,” “We Almost Lost Detroit,: “South Carolina,” “A’int No Such Things As A Superman,” “17th Street,” “Pardon Our Analysis,” “Shah Mot,”B Movie,” and “Willing.” Each of these address serious social and political issues and none of them romanticize criminal elements in the Black or any other community. And then listen carefully to the songs that depict life in the more dangerous sectors of the ‘hood: they are essentially a critique of criminality that examine the responsibility of both the perpetrators and social system in which they operate.

    Second, there is Gil’s long history of political commitment and activism. Unlike so many music celebrities, Gil gave tirelessly and freely of his time to a variety of progressive political causes. He performed regularly on behalf of the anti-war, anti-nuclear power, and prisoners ‘rights movements and at numerous events supporting one aspect or another of the African American strguggle for justice in America. Virtually unmentioned in the numerous obituaries that have appeared since his death was his co-leadership with Stevie Wonder of the musical-political tour that spearheaded the drive to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday.

    Finally, the suggestion that a lumpen-worshiping “black subculture” has some sort of premium on the veneration of celebrities who abuse drug and alcohol is contradicted by the facts as well. Various well-known members of the white political and corporate elite in this country paid public tribute to another illustrious addict, Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, upon his passing. In a similar vein, much respect is accorded the genius of Jackson Pollock in the visual art world, as is the same to Edgar Allen Poe, Coleridge, or Kerouac in literary settings.

    Gil’s self-destructive behavior should neither be ignored or romanticized, but attention must be paid to what he achieved as an artist, an educator, an activist, and an inspiration to activists and humanitarians throughout the world. He was and will be a force in our lives, someone whose music and message resonates deeply, proving that one can be serious about understanding and changing the world while having a good time and listening and moving joyfully to the rhythms and harmonies that surround us.

    • Little Fred seems unable to distinguish between some things. So, to be clear: depicting a thing is not the same as justifying it. Critiquing the reasons for its existence is not the same thing as romanticizing it.

      There is a vast gulf between what America pretends to be and what it is, and the gods help anyone, black, white or otherwise, with the gall to point it out.