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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Appreciation: Gil Scott-Heron (The Heron Collection)

I once crafted a CD of Gil Scott-Heron songs. Two actually. I imagined it a double CD. The "Scott" disc and the "Heron" disc. The Scott disc featured smoother, gentler songs and the Heron disc featured songs with a rougher tone. See, the Heron disc I imagined, dealt with Gil's demons: The many monkeys on his back. I rarely listened to the Scott disc. It was all about the Heron disc for me. I don't remember exactly what was on it. Some of my favorite songs like "Johannesburg," "Lady Day & John Coltrane" and "We Almost Lost Detroit" no doubt. No poetry like "Whitey on the Moon" or "The Revolution Will Not be Televised." I had that stuff on a different disc. It didn't matter what was on it, because I was always waiting for the last three songs. Those three songs, were three of his most powerful on their own, but taking his biography into account and hearing them in, it was always nearly a rapturous experience.

The songs were, "The Bottle," "Angel Dust" and "Home is Where the Hatred Is." 

Many times I remember sitting in my driveway after the long ride from Fairfax, VA---where I went to school--to Silver Spring, MD--where I lived-- waiting for the sequence to end.

Gil Scott-Heron lived hard. The joke was that he took the second part of his last name too far. But it was no joke, this talented singer, poet and novelist had slipped into the darkside of life and got lost in drug addiction. A lot of folks expected this news long before it happened. But the amazing part was that some of his best songs are about battling addiction.

The sequencing on my CD was simple to me. These three songs seemed to be talking to each other. Together they had a narrative,."The Bottle" dealt with alcohol. It's a nearly didactic song saved by its funkiness. It goes first because it deals with an addiction that is widespread. The character in it is not wrecked, but is certainly heading there. The song is almost playful. Then I placed the song "Angel Dust" next. PCP is obviously much more dangerous than alcohol. He sings, "Down some dead end streets, there ain't no turning back." It's a perfect set up for the next song, one of my favorite songs of all time, "Home is Where the Hatred Is." An emotionally wrenching song about a guy totally broken by his addictions. "You keep saying, 'Kick it, quit. Kick it, quit it.' But did you ever try?" The line and the way it's delivered has nearly brought me to tears many, many times.

Without further ado,"The Heron Sequence:"

"The Bottle"

"Angel Dust"

"Home is Where the Hatred Is"

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