“All I really want to say
Is that the problems come and go
But the sunshine seems to stay . . . “
My son sent me On Coming from a Broken Home (an excerpt from the album, I’m New Here) for Mother’s Day in 2011. Since then I publish some version of this piece every two years. I think Gil Scott-Heron’s message here is important.
Gil Scott-Heron died around this time in 2011. He’d started out fiery and angry. Some will remember his forceful The Revolution Will Be Televised and other such works. He was always an artist of political integrity. It showed in actions such as refusing to perform in Tel Aviv because “we do not like wars.” Over time his style mellowed, but his ideals remained.
Gil Scott-Heron is considered by many to be the grandfather of rap and the father of political rap. Famously, he didn’t accept those titles; he was critical of young rappers, felt they needed to study more, to promote change and not perpetuate the status-quo. He is quoted in ChickenBones: A Journal as saying …
“They need to study music. I played in several bands before I began my career as a poet. There’s a big difference between putting words over some music, and blending those same words into the music. There’s not a lot of humor. They use a lot of slang and colloquialisms, and you don’t really see inside the person. Instead, you just get a lot of posturing.”
In the poem shared today it’s interesting to see what Heron does with his personal experience. I like that there’s nothing of the victim mentality in this piece. I like the way he talks of dealing with life as it is. I appreciate that he points out that single-parent homes are not always the result of abandonment but are often made so due to parents who were lost in war or in jobs as police officers, firefighters or pilots.
“They lost their lives, but not what their lives stood for.”
On Coming From a Broken Home (video below, escerpt from I‘m New Here) is a good example of how art can explain, validate and give us new perspectives … perhaps even encourage us to talk with one another. The piece is from Gil Scott-Heron’s last studio album, I’m New Here. It came out in 2010 not long before he died.
As always if you are viewing this post from an email, you will have to click on the link to this site to see and hear the piece.
Header photograph/Heron at the WOMARD festival in Bristol England, 1988 by Robman94 under CC BY SA 2.0 license.