Shades of Revolution

As I watched the ongoing live streaming coverage of Freedom Convoy 2022 over the weekend I could help but think: Gil Scott-Heron was wrong. Or was he?

You probably aren’t aware of the music of this American poet. He’s been dead for more than a decade, and the times he chronicled were over long ago. Yet as I watched the drama unfold from downtown Ottawa, lyrics were running through my head, lyrics from more than 50 years ago

The words are dated, pop culture references to the late 1960s that will be unfamiliar to most people these days. Natalie Woods and Steve McQueen were dead by the early 1980s. Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew are also long gone. Today The Beverly Hillbillies are found only in reruns. Even Search For Tomorrow only lasted a litttle over 9,000 episodes. (Just for the record, I didn’t watch any of those.)

But I still find Gil Scott-Heron’s social commentary haunting. The “song” is a call for commitment, for taking a stand. It is a rejection of complacency, consumerism and the status quo.

The way we communicate has changed drastically in the past 50 years. When “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” first appeared in 1970, broadcast TV was the dominant form of video transmission. The internet was science fiction.

Today anyone with a cell phone has the power to broadcast from wherever they are. The social revolution that Gil Scott-Heron was expecting may never have made it to television, but the technological revolution has surpassed his wildest imagination.

THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED – Gil Scott-Heron

You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag
And skip out for beer during commercials, because
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be brought to you
By Xerox in four parts without commercial interruptions
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon blowing a bugle
And leading a charge by John Mitchell, General Abrams, and Spiro Agnew
To eat hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be brought to you by the Schaefer Award Theatre
And will not star Natalie Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, because
The revolution will not be televised, brother

There will be no pictures of you and Willie Mae
Pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run
Or trying to slide that color TV into a stolen ambulance
NBC will not be able predict the winner
At 8:32 on report from twenty-nine districts
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers on the instant replay
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers on the instant replay
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young
Being run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process
There will be no slow motion or still lifes of Roy Wilkins
Strolling through Watts in a red, black, and green liberation jumpsuit
That he has been saving for just the proper occasion

Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville Junction
Will no longer be so damn relevant
And women will not care if Dick finally got down with Jane
On Search for Tomorrow
Because black people will be in the street looking for a brighter day
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock news
And no pictures of hairy armed women liberationists
And Jackie Onassis blowing her nose
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb or Francis Scott Keys
Nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash
Engelbert Humperdinck, or The Rare Earth
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be right back
After a message about a white tornado
White lightning, or white people
You will not have to worry about a dove in your bedroom
The tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl
The revolution will not go better with Coke
The revolution will not fight germs that may cause bad breath
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat

The revolution will not be televised
Will not be televised
Will not be televised
Will not be televised
The revolution will be no re-run, brothers
The revolution will be live

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