newritings

April 26, 2009

The Revolution will not be televised

Filed under: poetry,some of my favorite things — newritings @ 10:13 am

I write this post whilst listening to BBC radio 4, on stream, about an interview Pieces of a Man, of the great poet Gil Scott-Heron. Threateningly, it says, 4 days left to listen, whereafter one would have to buy or request the podcast.

I read that the poet Lemn Sissay from the UK, ‘travels to New York to meet influential poet, activist, musician, writer and ‘godfather of rap’ Gil Scott-Heron’. The BBC radio 4 sinopsis of the programme reads that ‘Lemn speaks to Gil about his childhood, spent with his feisty grandmother in Tennessee, and his teenage years in New York at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Gil’s adolescence was bookended by the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.’

Still listening, I now hear Lemm talk about “a little known fact is that Gil’s father was the first Black footballer Glassgow Celtic’s”… and there is a lovely quote from Benjamin Zephania, complimenting him for not only criticising governments but also himself, his own struggles with the drugs and the bottle.

To crown it all I must add my stipent worth to this introduction of “some of my favourite poems” and here I know I am cheating because what Scot does cannot be simply categorised into jazz, blues, poem, prose, philosophy, activismo, etc. but that is for others to contemplate and write on suffice to say that Gil was brought out to South Africa (at different times) by South African Arts Exchange’s Roshnie Moonsammy and I saw them, live…and they were great!

Thus, it will not surprise the reader that the poems I chose for my poetic mood however are: Johannesburg (a song with lyrics by Gil Scott-heron And Brian Jackson), and the Revolution will not be televised. These gems are amongst many, including the title of Lemm’s programme which are cool, hip and you name it, because this man is the pioneer of many genres of the spoken work, which dances with the music that comes from both the head and the heart, and makes the body move.

Gil has recorded (music) and published widely and his own radio programme.

The man

The Revolution will not be televised

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.
There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.
Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.
There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be right back after a message
about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.
The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

Gil Heron, Black Arrow, dad of Scott-Heron

Johannesburg

What’s the word?
Tell me brother, have you heard
from Johannesburg?
What’s the word?
Sister/woman have you heard
from Johannesburg?
They tell me that our brothers over there
are defyin’ the Man
We don’t know for sure because the news we
get is unreliable, man
Well I hate it when the blood starts flowin’
but I’m glad to see resistance growin’
Somebody tell me what’s the word?
Tell me brother, have you heard
from Johannesburg?
They tell me that our brothers over there
refuse to work in the mines,
They may not get the news but they need to know
we’re on their side.
Now sometimes distance brings
misunderstanding,
but deep in my heart I’m demanding;
Somebody tell me what’s the word?
Sister/woman have you heard
’bout Johannesburg?
I know that their strugglin’ over there
ain’t gonna free me,
but we all need to be strugglin’
if we’re gonna be free
Don’t you wanna be free?

Pieces Of A Man (lyrics)

Here I am, after so many years

Hounded by hatred and trapped by fear
I’m in a box, I’ve got no place to go
If I follow my mind, I know I’ll slaughter my own.

Help me I’m the prisoner, won’t you hear my plea
I need somebody, yeah, to listen to me
I beg you, brothers and sisters, I’m counting on you (yeah).

Black babies in the womb are shackled and bound
Chained by the caveman who keeps beauty down
Smacked on the ass when they’re squalling and wet
Heir to a spineless man who never forgets

Never forgets that he’s a prisoner, can’t you hear my plea
Cause I need somebody, Lord knows, to listen to me
I’m a stranger to my son who wonders why his daddy runs.

On my way to work in the morning when I don’t give a damn
Can’t nobody [x4] see just who in hell I am
Hemmed in by a suit, yes all choked up in a tie
Ain’t no wonder some times near morning I hear my woman cry
She knows her man is a prisoner, won’t you hear my plea
Yeah, cause I need somebody, wooo, to listen to me
My woman she don’t say but she hates to see her man chained this way
Yeah, help me, I’m the prisoner
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m the prisoner

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