Poet, novelist, scholar and musician Gil Scott-Heron was many things during his prolific career but above all, in the words of music critic Nelson George, “he was a teller of uncomfortable truths.” Scott-Heron’s career path was unconventional, mirroring his nonconformist approach to music. His debut album, the spoken-word classic Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (1970), celebrated Scott-Heron’s varied influences: from John Coltrane to Langston Hughes, Otis Redding to Malcolm X, Billie Holiday to the Last Poets. Scott-Heron channeled these influences with his fusion of jazz, blues, soul, and funk, challenging the status quo with biting satire, unapologetic social commentary, and confrontational poetry.
“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Gil Scott-Heron’s debut 1970 single, cautioned listeners to question the power of mass media. The track’s spoken-word storytelling backed with a sparse percussive arrangement drew on jazz, blues, and the poets of the Harlem Renaissance. It has been cited as a foundational influence on contemporary hip-hop culture and remains a call to action for the Black Lives Matter movement.