Gil Scott-Heron was a unique voice during America's turbulent years of social upheaval in the 1970's. Musically, he was way ahead of his time. In the year 1970 he released his debut album, Small Talk at 125th and Lennox, which contained the song The Revolution Will Not be Televised - cited by many people as the first rap song ever recorded. Scott-Heron has been called "The Godfather of Rap" and when he passed away in 2011 pop superstar Usher, among many others, cited him as a major figure in 20th Century music.
So why wasn't he more famous? Part of the answer may be that a drug problem he developed in the seventies made him difficult for promoters, record companies, and other musicians to handle. He went through several configurations of band mates before his record company, Arista, dropped him in the mid-eighties. His strong opinions about politics and civil rights hardly made him a mainstream media darling - in short he was probably just "to hot to handle" for AM radio, which dominated what the public listened to in those times. Despite all of that his music has stood up remarkably well, and I am glad to see that several of his CDs are available for you to check out from the Calgary Public Library.
Also available from the library is "The Last Holiday: A Memoir", a biography that focuses on the time he spent on Stevie Wonder's Hotter Than July tour - a time when Wonder was the strongest voice speaking out for a holiday to commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. It is an amazing book that will fascinate anyone remotely interested in the social changes that happened through the seventies and early eighties.
So today, Martin Luther King Day, why not check out the words and music of a man who did his part in making this holiday come to pass? Oh, and it wouldn't hurt to listen to some Stevie Wonder or read the words of Dr. King himself. While this may not be a holiday here in Canada, I think we can all agree that the example Dr. King set has had a great positive effect that does not stop at the borders of the United States.