"The world's on the edge of it's seat,
Defeat on the horizon,
Very surprising, that we all could see the plot and claimed that we could not.
Just How Blind, America?"
- H2Ogate, Gil Scott-Heron
A poet, a "bluesologist", and a story-teller jazz musician, Gil Scott-Heron's songs from the 70s and 80s tell the same stories about the US government and black america that still ring true today.
I discovered GSH about ten years ago when I was trying to figure out what Prince was talking about in his song The War, singing about "the evolution will be colorized". From there I discovered Gil Scott-Heron's The Revolution Will Be Televised and other music of his like Me And The Devil, NY is Killing Me and Whitey On The Moon.
I used to skip past a lot of Gil (and Nina's) political songs. They were for another era - not as relevant now. Well, it turns out they've been relevant all along - Winter in America, H2Ogate, Washington DC, and soooooo so many more songs and poems from "The Godfather of Rap".
I painted the American flag in the background of this portrait based off of his 1971 album Pieces of A Man, because he was entirely immersed in the processes and people involved in running this country in his poetry and his music. In one interview Scott-Heron mentioned “I think that the Black Americans are the only real die-hard Americans here... because we’re the only ones who’ve carried the process through the process…. We’re the ones who marched… we’re the ones who tried to go through the courts. Being born American didn’t seem to matter.” In the documentary Black Wax on Amazon Prime, he walks through a wax museum of America's leaders, and through the streets of DC near the capitol with his boombox, telling stories of corruption and suppression in the white house that sound so familiar today. Feels to me like he deserved to be specifically portrayed as an American.
Just How Blind, America?
Gil Scott-Heron from his 1971 Pieces of a Man album
oil on wood panel