Kevin Alexander Gray On Gil Scott Heron’s Legacy
KPFA Weekend News, 05.28.2011: Kevin Alexander Gray on musical legend Gil Scott Heron.
KPFA Weekend News Anchor Cameron Jones: KPFA played a two hour tribute to African American musician Gil Scott Heron and KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to African American author Kevin Alexander Gray on Gil Scott Heron’s passing.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: African American musical legend Gil Scott Heron died yesterday. KPFA spoke to Kevin Alexander Gray, longtime civil rights, peace, and justice organizer and the author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike, the Fundamentals of Black Politics about Heron’s legacy. Kevin Alexander Gray, what do you think Gil Scott Heron’s legacy will be?
Kevin Alexander Gray: Well, obviously, he was a great poet, a giant of the spoken word, and Gil Scott Heron spoke about politics as it was. He challenged the corrupt nature of the Nixon Administration, and the fact that Ford had pardoned Nixon. When I was a young man growin’ up in South Carolina, Gil Scott Heron sang about nuclear weapons that were being built in South Carolina, nuclear radiological waste that was being stored in South Carolina. He sang about the connection between South Carolina and South Africa. Gil Scott Heron spoke truth to power, and was probably one of the last contemporary artists whose words challenged the empire that is America. And you don’t have any writers or any poets or any musicians that can parallel his work on the contemporary scene. To say he’s the father of modern hip hop, of modern rap is to say that they have words in common with him, but surely the message doesn’t even compare to his body of work and the teaching, the radical progressivism that he represented throughout his life, no one can match that.
Ann Garrison: Is there any one or several songs that you think are going to be most remembered?
Kevin Alexander Gray: His body of work is just so large. I mean everyone remembers “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” but a lotta people don’t remember “H20GATE, Kevin Alexander Gray Watergate Blues,” in which he sang about Richard Nixon and Watergate, or, when Gerald Ford gave Nixon a pardon, “We Beg Your Pardon, America,” or “Whitey’s on the Moon”: “Rat bit my sister today, but Whitey’s on the moon.” That’s an awesome song. His body of work is just so huge. Y’know one thing about his passing that has been kind of a mixed blessing is that people have gone back to listen to all the work that he produced in his life.
KPFA: Well, we had a two hour special here at KPFA today and want to tell our listeners that that’s available in the KPFA archives here, at: kpfa.org.
Kevin Alexander Gray, thank you for speaking to KPFA.
Kevin Alexander Gray: Thank you.
KPFA: For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.
by Ann Garrison