This next album will be the last of my picks to fall within the period of 1963-1973 before our focus shifts elsewhere.
With summer having officially arrived, the entries have been (understandably) coming in a little slower across the board.
Additionally, I have no doubt that the masses have been writhing in anticipation of this very post and for that, I do apologize to them (you).
It has been suggested that we take a break from working our way up by decade and change the theme temporarily.
I am all for whatever keeps the interest alive.
It is a busy time of year and I am as guilty as anyone for having slacked on my final entry.. but I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come!
Would be a shame to see the whole thing fizzle out so soon. It has been a lot of fun getting to see the spectrum of tastes within the community and it is already apparent that we are going to have to motivate each other to keep it going.
Having said that, the only thing fueling this thing is fun (not fun.)
Hoping to read more from everyone soon, old and new alike! 😀
* * * * *
Look, Gil was that dude.
Scott-Heron was politicized from an early age. Born to a father who became the first black footballer to play for Celtic F.C., he was a gifted writer whose talents would earn him a scholarship to the prestigious Ethical Culture Fieldston private school in the Bronx.
An accomplished poet by the age of thirteen and acclaimed author upon entering his twenties, he split his youth between Tennessee and New York and the socio-economic divide he was privy to in both states would influence a large majority of his musical output.
Although Winter in America (1974) is often considered to be the magnum opus of Gil’s discography, Pieces of a Man – his studio debut – is his true seminal work.
- Gil was urged to begin a recording career at the behest of Bob Thiele. If you don’t know who that is, please look it up to see why that matters. Thiele then signed Scott-Heron to his personal label, Flying Dutchman Records.
- When assembling the personnel for the Pieces of a Man sessions, Gil called upon Brian Jackson, a schoolmate he struck up a friendship with prior to dropping out of Lincoln University. The two would form a songwriting partnership that would last about a decade with Gil referring to Jackson as one of his greatest influences. This period of time is widely referred to as Scott-Heron’s golden era.
- Although often conflicted about his role as a pioneering figure in hip-hop, it is indisputable that “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” practically wrote the blueprint for rap music: Free-form poetic lyrics that defiantly challenge the status-quo, a throbbing bassline, and a minimal 4/4 drumbeat. The song remains as pertinent today as ever.
- Whereas most “revolutionary” music of the time could be quite bleak, Scott-Heron often relied upon the use of biting wit and subtle sarcasm to ease the digestion of his message. This was fairly unique for the time given his subject matter and also had a large impact upon the braggadocio of the modern MC.
“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is arguably the most famous song of Scott-Heron’s career and one that was viewed with some disdain by the man himself, particularly within the context of Pieces of a Man, and rightfully so. It certainly does not serve as a reflection of the album as a whole.
Several tracks are much more optimistic in regards to their lyrical content and far less foreboding in terms of the instrumentals. In fact, the significance of the music on the whole cannot be downplayed, as the players were melding styles of funk, jazz, and R&B in ways that were pushing each genre into unfamiliar territories.
Sadly, Gil passed just over two years ago but he managed to connect with portions of each generation up until his death, sporadically recording at least once per decade. He was active all the way up until his passing and closed his career with the very excellent, I’m New Here of 2010.
Below are two of my favourite cuts off Pieces of a Man.
Hope you enjoyed reading about my fave albums from 1963-1973!
See you at the next topic!
* FUN FACT: Gil Scott-Heron was the first ever act signed to Arista Records, the company that now-massive (I meant that figuratively) music mogul Clive Davis would found subsequent to his firing from CBS Records, currently known as Sony Music Entertainment