Gil Scott-Heron Delivered Musical Op-Eds
Friday, May 27, 2011
Gil Scott-Heron might not have been a journalist, but the poet and musician was sure enough a social commentator who could "make it sing," and his subjects included the media. His most quoted piece was "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." Perhaps it was fitting that news of his death in New York spread virally on the Internet, television's successor.
"The artist's publisher, Jamie Byng has confirmed the passing on twitter, 'Just heard the very sad news that my dear friend and one of the most inspiring people I've ever met, the great Gil Scott-Heron, died today.' A true legend in every sense of the word, rest in peace," the Source reported online Friday night. He was 62.
The Associated Press added, "A friend, Doris C. Nolan, who answered the telephone listed for his Manhattan recording company, said he died in the afternoon at St. Luke's Hospital after becoming sick upon returning from a European trip."
The early tributes called Scott-Heron a progenitor of the hip-hop generation. Eminem tweeted, "RIP Gil Scott-Heron. He influenced all of hip-hop." Rapper-producer Kanye West closed his platinum-selling 2010 album "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" with a track built around a sample of Scott-Heron's voice, Daoud Tyler-Ameen noted for NPR.
But in a 1994 tune, "Message to the Messengers," Scott-Heron warned the hip-hop artists to keep the music substantive. He wasn't about bling or beefs. Nor was he post-racial. Scott-Heron raised topics that have since gone out of fashion on op-ed pages as well as in pop music: poverty, racism, alcoholism and trying to survive — legally — in the inner city. Who, today, would venture a poem such as "Whitey on the Moon?" ("A rat done bit my sister Nell/with Whitey on the moon.")
Scott-Heron's albums from the 1970s and '80s featured extended riffs on Watergate, the Bicentennial, lack of self-determination for residents of Washington, D.C., apartheid, nuclear power, Ronald "Ray-Gun" and the perils of substance abuse, a vice that eventually led him to a prison term on drug possession charges and his physical deterioration.
Scott-Heron was not always a favorite of the masses, but he was of critics, such as dream hampton, who tweeted, "I grew up poor & w hiphop my gen began to strip shame from poverty. Before us, Gil reminded us that poor ppl are human.. . . Gil sang about health care, police brutality, nuclear proliferation, racism, marriage, hunger and hurt . . . Gil seemed sensitive to the point of being skinless. Yet he was strong."
Media images seemed never far away from his consciousness. Ben Greenman wrote in the New Yorker in 2009 after the death of venerable CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite:
"Gil Scott-Heron, the performance poet and proto-rapper, obliquely criticized Cronkite in his landmark piece 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,' and often referred to the venerable anchor as 'Walter Concrete,' most recently in 'Let Me See Your ID,' which appeared on the 'Sun City' album, in 1985. As newspapers and magazines lament Cronkite’s passing and the shift from authoritative news anchors to radically decentralized, often unreliable Internet-based news, it’s worth watching this YouTube video of 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,' set to a montage of assorted clips."
Scott-Heron was the subject of a 2004 BBC documentary, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," by director-musician Don Letts. "Information is what we needed most of all," Scott-Heron said in the film. "One needed some honest information. That's what we tried to deliver in our poetry and in our songs. We were just as honest as we could be."
- Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune: Gil Scott-Heron, soul poet, dead at 62
- John Lewis, Uncut, Britain: Album Review: Gil Scott-Heron — I'm New Here
- London Telegraph: Gil Scott-Heron (May 28)
- Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times: Gil Scott-Heron dies; influential poet/musician helped inspire rap
- Ben Sisario, New York Times: Gil Scott-Heron, Voice of Black Culture, Dies at 62 (May 28)
- Gil Scott-Heron Web site
- TaRessa Stovall, thedefendersonline.org: Genius Burning Brightly: The Unraveling of Gil Scott-Heron (2009)
- Kristi E. Swartz, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Gil Scott-Heron, ‘godfather of rap' who mixed poetry and politics, dead at 62
- Alec Wilkinson, the New Yorker: New York Is Killing Me: The unlikely survival of Gil Scott-Heron. (Aug. 9, 2010)
Civil War Stories for Memorial Day
Jimmy Johnson often portrays his great-grandfather, who fought in 1862 at the Battle of Island Mound in Bates County, Mo., the first combat engagement of African American soldiers in the Civil War. (Credit: Keith Myers/Kansas City Star)
"The wind-whipped field looks no different from millions of others. Even as a field of battle, it is hardly distinguishable from thousands," Mara Rose Williams and Glenn E. Rice wrote Sunday from Butler, Mo., in the Kansas City Star.
"But these grassy acres west of town are hallowed.
"Here, in October 1862, black men — escaped slaves and freedmen both — fought rebels in a bloody hand-to-hand skirmish as an American unit for the first time.
" 'Like tigers,' noted one Southern man who tangled with them here at Island Mound."
Williams and Rice wrote the second installment of a Kansas City Star series on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Memorial Day, to be celebrated on Monday, was originally called Decoration Day and has its origins in the aftermath of the Civil War. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country."
For the Kansas City Star piece, Williams and Rice interviewed Willadina Johnson, who in researching her family history found a bronze statue of a Union infantryman, an African American, on the lawn of the Bates County, Mo., courthouse.
"Cpl. Rufus Vann, her great-great-grandfather, marched into Bates County with the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, she said. He was among the 200,000 black men who filled out the ranks of the Union army," the story continued.
"Like 40,000 of his comrades of color, Vann did not survive. His 1865 death in Little Rock, not from bullets but from disease, was typical for the Civil War soldier.
"Impressive numbers, yet, for many African-Americans, it is difficult to embrace the 150th anniversary of the war.
"While white Civil War enthusiasts don uniforms — with a decided preference in Missouri for gray — and women slip into silk hoop skirts for balls, few African-Americans care to dress up as slaves."
President Abraham Lincoln "was among those resisting the idea of black soldiers at first. . . ."
Yet "in manpower-short Kansas, Sen. James Lane already had begun recruiting former slaves for an all-black unit, with even a few black officers, another breakthrough.
"Lt. Patrick Henry Minor’s role at Island Mound appears to make him the nation’s first black officer to lead members of his race in battle.
"The black soldiers are said to have sung …
"Once a slave but now we’s free,
"marchin’ in the infantry.
"So lift your heads and hold dem high,
"The 1st Kansas Colored is passin’ by…"
A marker at Market and Third streets in Harrisburg, Pa., honors Thomas Morris Chester, who wrote for the Philadelphia Press and became the only black journalist to cover the Civil War for a white newspaper. He followed black troops on the Virginia front, including their participation in the taking of Richmond. (Credit: housedivided.dickinson.edu)
"Three years before the commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic called on Union veterans’ organizations to decorate the graves of dead soldiers, blacks in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865 launched the first Decoration Day in honor of the Union’s war dead, says Yale University history professor David Blight," Denise Stewart wrote Friday for BlackAmericaWeb.com.
" 'That ceremony on May 1, 1865 was actually the first recorded Decoration Day or Memorial Day,' said Blight, author of several books, including ['Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory'].
"Today, the national observance on the last Monday in May still serves as a day to remember those who died in wars. It’s also mixed with parades, picnics and other displays of patriotism.
"Blight was in a Harvard University library doing research for ['Race and Reunion'] about 15 years ago when he stumbled across a box of unorganized papers of a Union veterans’ organization and a folder with the words 'First Decoration Day' written on it.
"He sifted through those papers and landed on a research path that would take him to South Carolina and the former Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, a place that was once a prestigious horse racing course for the state’s low country planters and others in the wealthy, aristocratic class.
"During the Civil War, that track was turned into a prison for Union soldiers. Many died there, but were not buried properly, Blight said.
"Following the Confederate surrender ending the Civil War, blacks went to the place where hundreds of prisoners had been buried, many in mass graves.
" 'Blacks, many of them recently freed slaves, buried the soldiers properly. They put up a fence around the area and painted it. More than 260 were buried there. We don’t know the names. We don’t know the race,' Blight told BlackAmericaWeb.com.
"Following the burials, there was a ceremony. . . ."
- Association to commemorate the Chinese serving in the American Civil War
- Julian Bond, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Civil War’s winners worth celebrating
- Katherine Calos, Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch: Fort Monroe appropriate place for slavery to unravel
- Chris Carola, Associated Press: NYC project IDs more than 4,000 Civil War graves
- CivilWarHome.com: Union and Confederate Indians in the Civil War
- Daily Press, Newport News, Va.: 150 Years: The Civil War in Hampton Roads
- Jim Estrada, mylatinovoice.com: A Tribute to the Forgotten Force
- 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry
- Don Fletcher, Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser: Descendants honor Confederate soldiers
- Neil Genzlinger, New York Times: Television: Old-Time Stuff Is Not Forgotten
- Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: A Graduate of Lincoln University, He Won the Congressional Medal of Honor for Heroism In the Civil War
- Ruthanne Lum McCunn: Chinese in the U.S. Civil War
- Pennsylvania Grand Review: Honoring African American Patriots 1865 / 2010
- Daina Savage, WITF, Harrisburg, Pa.: Civil War Echoes – June 2011
- Michael L. Thurmond, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Black soldiers shaped Civil War’s purpose
- Steve Weinberg, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Civil War book roundup
"Maria Lopez-Alvarez, Univision's VP and Director of News/Entertainment Programs and Mario Ruiz, VP of Talent for the network, are no longer with the company," Veronica Villafañe reported Friday for her Media Moves site.
"Maria had been with Univision over 20 years, working her way up the ranks. She started her career at WLTV-23 in Miami before moving to the network as Executive Producer, launching 'Noticias y Más' in 1991, later renamed 'Primer Impacto.' "
"Mario joined Univision in 2004 and was in charge of all in-house talent within Univision and Telefutura networks. He previously worked as a consultant to record companies, artists and producers in the entertainment industry."
A Univision spokeswoman would not discuss the development.
Last week, Univision Communications Inc., announced that Kevin Cuddihy had been named president of Univision Television Group, to oversee all UTG operations, including advertising sales and local programming, "and work to ensure close collaboration between UTG and the Company’s other local media assets."
In April, Randy Falco, chief operating officer of Univision Communications, said the company was planning to launch a telenovela cable channel in the United States during the third quarter and a sports and likely also a 24/7 news network next year to offer its Spanish-language audience additional content outlets, the Hollywood Reporter reported.
Univision Communications Inc. declares that it is "the premier media company serving Hispanic America," whose "assets include Univision Network, one of the top five networks in the U.S. regardless of language and the most-watched Spanish-language broadcast television network in the U.S. reaching 97% of U.S. Hispanic households."
"Massachusetts authorities and ESPN.com columnist Howard Bryant reached an agreement Friday to drop the charges stemming from a February incident in which Bryant was arrested and accused of domestic assault and resisting arrest," ESPN reported on Friday.
" 'A careful review of all of the statements of percipient witnesses that have been collected do not support allegations that Mr. Bryant struck, choked, pinned [his wife, Veronique] against a car, or inflicted violence upon her,' according to an agreement signed by Jeremy C. Bucci, chief trial counsel in the Northwestern District Attorney's office for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and by Bryant's lawyer, Buz Eisenberg.
"Bryant, 42, who strongly denied the allegations in the days after his arrest, released a statement Friday, saying: 'Having always maintained my innocence of these charges, I'm gratified that the Commonwealth has determined that all allegations against me are unsubstantiated. I look forward to devoting full attention to my top priorities, my family and my work.'
"The agreement calls for the case to be resolved after a continuance of six months."
- Dan Fogarty, Sportsgrid.com: An ESPN Personality Is Found Innocent, But The Damage May Be Irreparable
Ebony magazine reaches 9.99 adult readers per copy, but People en Español reaches 13.44, according to the spring 2011 print audience report from the firm GfK Mediamark Research & Intelligence, LLC. Both figures are increases from a year ago.
The New York-based firm interviews a sample of 26,000 adults in their homes to produce its figures, correlating the sample demographics to those in the general population, Anne Marie Kelly, senior vice president of marketing and strategic planning, told Journal-isms. "We ask about magazine readership, by title," she said.
Among magazines targeting people of color, the survey shows an adult audience for Black Enterprise of 3,510,000, down from 3,799,000 in spring 2010; Ebony, 10,776,000, an increase from 10,284,000; Essence, 7,731,000, down from 8,308,000; Jet, 6,958,000, down from 7,150,000; Latina, 2,753,000, up from 2,344,000; and People en Español, 6,816,000, up from 6,422,000.
The readers-per-copy figures calculate to: Black Enterprise, 7.48, a decrease from 7.6; Ebony 9.99, up from 8.37; Essence, 7.11, down from 7.47; Jet, 9.28, up from 8.5; Latina, 5.4, up from 5.31; People en Español, 13.44, up from 11.89.
- Lucia Moses, AdWeek: Newsweek, Others Take Readership Hit
Vicki Mabrey, correspondent for ABC-TV's New York-based "Nightline," is moving to Detroit but will continue to freelance for the network, she has told her social networking friends.
"As you saw from my previous post, Detroit will be my new home. I'll be freelancing for ABC, taking classes, learning French (might require some time in Paris, methinks), and spending time in London with Leon. I grew to love NYC, but having lived in St Louis, DC, Baltimore, Dallas, and London before coming to NYC (which I thought I'd hate), I'm pretty adaptable," she wrote. "Leon" was not further identified, but news stories have placed Mabrey in a longstanding relationship with Australian-born documentary photographer Leon Ferguson.
ABC News spokesman Jeffrey W. Schneider told Journal-isms Friday, "She will continue to do pieces for the show and for all of ABC News."
Before joining ABC News and "Nightline" in 2005, Mabrey was a correspondent for CBS News' "60 Minutes II," a position she held since the program's debut in 1999, according to her bio.
"The E.W. Scripps Company announced today that Mark G. Contreras is no longer serving as the senior vice president of its newspaper division," the Memphis Commercial Appeal, a Scripps newspaper, reported Friday. Contreras joined Scripps in January 2005 as vice president/newspaper operations and was promoted to senior vice president in March 2006, the report said.
"Effective immediately, Rich Boehne, president and chief executive officer of the company, will serve as the acting head of the newspaper division until a permanent executive is named to run the company’s group of daily newspapers in 13 markets, including The Commercial Appeal.
"The company expects to provide an update on the division’s succession plans in the near future."
Contreras, a graduate of Harvard Business School, came up on the business side of newspapers. An old company bio, since removed, concluded with:
"Mark is former Chairman of The American Press Institute. He serves as Chairman of the Newspaper Association of America. He is a board member of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts and a member of the National Association of Minority Media Executives. Mark is a trustee of the Scripps Howard Foundation."
"Preliminary figures show Wednesday's finale of 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' scored its highest audience in 17 years," the Associated Press reported.
And "culminating with the top playoff series in cable history, TNT closed its Nielsen book on 2011 as the most-watched NBA postseason in cable history," according to Mike Reynolds, writing Friday for Multichannel News.
"Last night's coverage of the Miami Heat's Eastern Conference finals series' clincher over the Chicago Bulls scored a 6.3 U.S. household rating and 10.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen data. That was almost a mirror image of TNT's average over the five-game series during which LeBron James, [Dwyane] Wade and Chris Bosh and the rest of the Heat penned in NBA MVP Derrick Rose and his Bulls: a 6.2 rating and 8.6 million viewers.
"Those numbers surpassed the 5.4 rating and 6.14 million viewers for cable's previous conference record-holder, the 2009 Eastern Conference finals in which James's Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Orlando Magic."
The Nielsen Co. said Thursday that the final "Oprah" episode delivered a 13.3 household rating in the nation's metered markets, the AP story continued.
"It was the highest number since February 1994. That's when an 'Oprah' episode called 'People Shed Their Disguises' got a 13.4 rating.
"Metered market ratings measure roughly half the nation and can't be translated into audience figures. A viewer count for the 'Oprah' finale won't be available from Nielsen for two weeks."
Facebook users: Sign up for the "Richard Prince's Journal-isms" fan page.
Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.
Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince.
To be notified of new columns, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us who you are.
Special thanks to The McCormick Foundation for its generous support of the Journal-isms column.
- Journo-diversity advocate turns attention to Ezra Klein project
(Erik Wemple, Washington Post, March 5, 2014)
- "Love, Peace and Soul!" And More
- Book Notes: Soothing the Senses, Shocking the Conscience
- Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2013
- Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2012
- Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2011
- Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2010
- Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2009
- Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2008
- Books to Ring In the New Year
- In-Your-Face Holiday Reads
- Fishbowl Interview With the Fresh Prince of D.C. (Oct. 26, 2012)
- NABJ to Honor Columnist Richard Prince With Ida B. Wells Award (Oct. 11, 2012)
- So What Do You Do, Richard Prince, Columnist for the Maynard Institute? (Richard Horgan, FishbowlLA Aug. 22, 2012)
- Who Am I? What's Race Got to Do With It?: Journalists Explore Identity
- Catching Up With Books for the Fall
- Richard Prince Helps Journalists Set High Bar (Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com, 2011)
- 10 Ways to Turn Pages This Summer
- 7 for Serious Spring Reading
- 7 Candidates for the Journalist's Library
- 9 That Add Heft to the Bookshelf
- Five Minutes With Richard Prince (Newspaper Association of America, 2005)
- 'Journal-isms' That Engage and Inform Diverse Audiences (Q&A with Mallary Jean Tenore, Poynter Institute, 2008)
Work We <3 | FDP
Find us on Facebook
Richard Prince Journal-isms Archive
Dori Maynard tweets on Diversity, Media & More
@JamilSmith The distorted #media depiction of African American men & boys has real life consequences, again. #mediadiversity #Tremaine