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Friday, December 6, 2013

Mandela and Gil Scott-Heron

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.

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