Work for Peace

31 May

Last year the New Yorker’s Alec Wilkinson wrote New York Is Killing Me The unlikely survival of Gil Scott-Heron which was a bitter sweet update on the harrowing life of one of music’s nearly forgotten giants. Bitter, because Heron was clearly still in the unrelenting grip of his crack addiction. Sweet, because Heron was still alive and given the gorilla on his back productive, having recently recorded AND RELEASED an album I”m New Here.

As difficult as it may be to pull memories out of the fog and turrnoil of one’s youth, I can still at least remember the hopefulness of those early 70’s times when a certain revolutionary fervor was still in the air, not in the least abetted by the genius of the then 18 year old Gil Scott Heron’s ditty,The Revolution Will not Be Televised recorded with two cronies as The Last Poets

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.

It was a stirring message for the young and impressionable. Heron explains

Now Gii Scott Heron is dead at the age of 62 . And,skimming the obits and news items it seems that he is being sent to his greater glory with the sobriquet of “godfather of rap” and a song title to credit. Some people may even remember his late 70’s disco hit The Bottle.

Gil Scot had a rich and deep voice that a more pliable and money minded artist would have parlayed into steady work shilling Buicks and Budweiser. Its also a voice that lent great authority to the words he spun into webs of rhyme and reason. Naturally fitting the requirements of a relentless news cycle all manner of vital information about Gil Scott Heron will fall to the wayside Not much to be done about that but it should not go unsaid that his poem Work for Peace also recorded as the Military and the Monetary belongs along side Mark Twain’s The War Prayer as one of the great anti war statements:

We’ve got to work for Peace,
Peace ain’t coming this way.
If we only work for Peace,
If everyone believed in Peace the way they say they do,
we’d have Peace.

The only thing wrong with Peace,
is that you can’t make no money from it.

And, of course this stirring insight

We should not allow ourselves to be mislead,
by talk of entering a time of Peace,
Peace is not the absence of war,
it is the absence of the rules of war and
the threats of war and the preparation for war.

Rest In peace, Gil Scott Heron

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