Summer in América

This is fun Wednesday morning viewing. It doesn’t really matter if it’s “real” or not, although I guess serious hackers probably feel insulted by the amateurishness of the prank. The important thing here is the content, not the form.

Gil Scott-Heron

I didn’t know the detail about his life involving going to Fieldston, which makes sense because those of us from modest means that are suddenly exposed to privilege often become its strongest critics. A lot of attention has been focused on “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” which is of course essentially true, and at the heart of all Gladwell-esque critiques of Facebook activism. But I didn’t see any mention of “Winter in America,” a song that was so truth-telling in its moment (1974) that it was paradoxically way ahead of its time.

Lousy way to kick off your adolescence, isn’t it? Or maybe it was the perfect insurance against getting fooled again. My man must have been melancholy when he wrote this song, because we never stopped fighting, and the peace signs did have a chance to grow. At the very least it got me to stick with Democracy Now after it went to break.

Many writers have seemed to miss the fact that hiphop grew directly out of r&b, funk, and Latin music, the genres that best describe Scott-Heron’s hybridized performance and compositional style. It’s as if Curtis Mayfield spent the winter reading Noam Chomsky. Doesn’t mean his connection to Common was ironic, just that no one should be surprised that hiphop’s soul was taken from a rhythmic world of melody and harmony.


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