Now Music. Movies are great and books essential but for social change, it is music that pushes the edge. The cultural explosion known as the 60’s was led and trumpeted by a creative musical detonation that both mirrored and contributed social change. What’s remembered from that era is the drugs (and there is plenty of interesting information about who/where those drugs actually came from) and other negative aspects, but there was a moment when things felt quite hopeful. A fact of Woodstock was that despite few amenities and not enough food, not one fistfight broke out, people. Hundreds of thousands of people actually came together and cooperated. What a concept. I’m a big fan of human attributes like discipline, hard work, initiative and self-reliance. You know, the ones Limbaughites seem to think they somehow invented, but now is the time for less competition and more cooperation. True cooperation and collaboration are the virtues we seek.
Gil Scott Heron is the artist for today. Gil came out of the 60’s and shined like a beacon through the 70’s but was ultimately side-lined by the disease of addiction and passed in 2011. As a promoter I was able to bring him to Ann Arbor, MI in the early 80’s and despite setbacks, his power was evident and his humor had me rolling in the aisle. Poetic, soulful, musical, very funny, with a great band, his artistry led him to be dubbed the Godfather of Rap. He and a few others (James Brown, The Last Poets) were the true progenitors of Hip-Hop, as younger artists will tell you today. His song/poetry, sometimes spoken, sometime sung, filled with social observation and heart, became the conscience of a generation. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a classic but I am showcasing The Bottle here, a song that focuses on addiction, which he ultimately succumbed to.
The New Yorker did one of their inimitable articles on Gil a year or so before his death and the New York Times obituary is worth reading.
From his day to now, the music industry has deeply changed, and in the shifts, the fact that there are many newer artists of great creativity, may be unknown to people. One area this applies to is the aforementioned worlds of Rap/Hip-Hop. Some current artists include:
A shift that has occurred is the vast concentration of music and all media into smaller and smaller hands, with 6 global conglomerates controlling virtually 95% of all US media. And they are still merging with predictions that it will end up as three.
Aside from our own concerns with these corporate mergers, it’s important to note that media is one of the few export and growth industries that America still retains. Its global influence is epic and the potential for damage or healing is equally epic. A sobering thought when you look at the rap/hip-hop world. We older-mostly white- folks love to bemoan the current state of popular music with rap’s cursing, drugs and ho’s talk. Gil said it this way.
Yet, I have been shown many soulful, poetic, creative, socially aware, hip-hop poets you never see promoted by any of these 6 corporations. They, some the largest corporations in America, are the ones selling us all this violence-prone, worship of money, glamorization of drugs, women-are- ho’s imagery. Shouldn’t these vast corporations be the ones to take to task for all this, instead of A) picking on the artists who are just trying to survive and B) allowing it to drive a wedge between the races?
Btw, I got to say, speaking of great local bookstores, as we did last time, I dropped in Circle Books in Pittsboro and they are a great used/new book and music store with plenty of other cool stuff, including collectors’ items. When it’s Christmas shopping time, or anytime, I highly recommend them.