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Truthdigger of the Week: Gil Scott-Heron

Posted on Jun 3, 2011

Every week, Truthdig recognizes an individual or group of people who spoke truth to power, blew the whistle or stood up in the face of injustice. You can see past winners here, and make your own nomination for our next awardee here.

Talk about speaking truth to power. Our pick for Truthdigger of the Week, Gil Scott-Heron, served as a living example of that idea with his provocative artistry, mixing poetry, music and activism in his signature style over the course of four decades until his death on May 27 at age 62.

Heron’s best known work is “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” a song-poem that has stuck in our collective cultural memory since it was first recorded in 1970, but he continued to create meaningful poetry for another 40 years.

Reader Peter Hockley nominated Heron “Because he always spoke truth to power!” and Lydia Howell described him in her nomination message as an “amazing truthteller.”

Heron is credited with influencing generations of musicians, among them rapper Lupe Fiasco who wrote his own poem in tribute after learning of Heron’s death:


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The Television Will Not Be Revolutionized!

“Ain’t no changing me” said my flat screen TV, No More Che’s to the rescue, or Black Panthers to correct you, just coaxial cables and satellite signals to connect you to a world that doesn’t really look like it does on TV, where everything is much shorter, fatter, uglier and in disorder, where u have to do it now because there are no digital recorders where if the present gets boring you can just fast forward,

The Television Will Not Be Revolutionized!

So there will be no revolution, or paradoxically ironic televised public execution of the entire worldwide televising institution, there wont even be a celebritized, televised trial of old baby blue, cuz you see my dear friends the television will not be revolutionized but what about the revolution that should taking place inside…...................of you?

While the death of Gil Scott-Heron is a tragic loss for a messed-up world, we are grateful for his life and the countless artists and activists he has inspired.

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By Peter Hockley, June 9, 2011 at 7:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gil, a homophobe, please tell me where and when! I met
him on several occasions in the late 70’s and early
80’s often in the company of out gay people and he
didn’t turn a hair. He was, in all my meetings with
him, a true human being and absolute gentleman. Even
when chemically challenged.

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By Katie, June 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m glad that you posted the video of the poem, “The
Revolution Will Not Be Televised” but I’m sorry that
you didn’t post a better example than the video of him
singing the song about a woman he met in a bar, who he
did not name as a real person, she’s just a prop for
his ego-exploration.  I don’t see that it contained
much truth except the tired example of famous male
singers singing about meeting unnamed women in bars. 
Seemed kinda sexist, kwim?  I’d rather see Cynthia
McKinney, who I’ve long admired greatly.  Some of the
others, too.

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By litlpeep, June 7, 2011 at 10:01 am Link to this comment

Amen to this choice for ‘truth to power dig artist of the week.”  Maybe this is a good time to think of putting Gil Scott-Heron on the short list of candidates for truth-digger of the year?


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By bart, June 6, 2011 at 9:58 pm Link to this comment

@icenine: the GSH-themed Wreck This Mess show airs coming monday @ 17.00
[euro time] and thereafter archived at mixcloud. GSH also features in my
DrinkDrankDrunk3 archived show… thanx.

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By IceNine, June 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm Link to this comment

bart - Is your radio show online? I might like to check it out. Can you post a link? Thanks much.

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By Peter Hockley, June 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

And by talking truth to power, paid the price. You just
know he was on the same list as “MLK, Malcolm X,Fannie
Lou Hamer,Geromino Pratt,Nina Simone, Eartha Kitt…..”

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By Stuffed Animal, June 6, 2011 at 11:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gil-Scott Heron was an unrepentant homophobe.  Don’t do a Richard Nixon-style lionization and leave that inconvenient truth out of his obituary.  Acknowledge his importance, yes, but give us his history warts and all.

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By CJ, June 6, 2011 at 10:46 am Link to this comment

One of the great JAZZ musicians lost.

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By bart, June 6, 2011 at 10:21 am Link to this comment

alas, we usually wait till these kinds of oracles die and then give them posthumous
awards and do retrospectives. little good that does them now. BTW: i will be doing
a radio show homage to GSH on my next Wreck This Mess radio show.

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By IceNine, June 6, 2011 at 8:44 am Link to this comment

Thanks, truthdig, for the article and the links.

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By grumpynyker, June 6, 2011 at 7:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hey Truthdig editors, here’s a couple of STILL BREATHING BLACK AMERICANS you can annoit Truthdigger of the week:  Bernard White, former program director of WBAI in nyc, Cynthia McKinney, Minister Louis Farrakhan, me because I posted here when this mulatto was running he was a fraud.  But if you insist on name dead blacks, can’t go wrong with MLK, Malcolm X,Fannie Lou Hamer,Geromino Pratt,Nina Simone, Eartha Kitt…..

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By Chris, June 6, 2011 at 6:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“An ego the size of Texas . . . does that mean big, or small?” LMAO. Nice touch of humor, and lovely melody.

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