When I was senior editor at Crawdaddy -- for most of the 1970s -- I convinced Gil Scott-Heron to become an occasional columnist. He was well-known, in certain circles, for his "The Revolution WIll Not Be Televised" and for a later cult hit "The Bottle" and excellent album Winter in America from which it emerged, but he was hardly a commercial superstar. Crawdaddy never cared about that and was always eager to promote any kind of lefty musician. His antinuclear epic "We Almost Lost Detroit" remains relevant to this day (I linked to it here after the Fukushima disaster this year). And who can forget "Whitey on the Moon"?
I only met Gil a couple of times, including once backstage at a
Central Park concert where I picked up a column (it seemed the only way
I'd ever get it). But we chatted on the phone a few times. He was a bright and engaging guy, and
about to go a little more mainstream with his semi-hit song "Johannesburg" --
which he wrote about for me at Crawdaddy (it was
based on his trip there, with Nelson Mandela a long way from being freed) and
gave us the lyrics before the single came out. "Hey brother have you
heard the word -- Johannesburg!" Brothers "defying the man." One of the great songs of the 1970s.
Friday, December 6, 2013
Mandela and Gil Scott-Heron
is author of a dozen books (click on covers at right), including the new "THE TUNNELS: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill." He was the longtime editor of Editor & Publisher. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @GregMitch