The Revolution Will Not be Televised ~ Gil Scott-Heron

GilbertGilScott-Heron  was an American soul and jazz poet, musician, and author, known primarily for his work as a spoken-word performer in the 1970s and 1980s. His collaborative efforts with musician Brian Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues, and soul, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles by Scott-Heron. His own term for himself was “bluesologist”, which he defined as “a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues”.His music, most notably on Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970s, influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul. In fact, Scott-Heron himself is considered by many to be the first rapper/MC ever, a recognition also shared by fellow American MC Coke La Rock.

Scott-Heron remained active until his death, and in 2010 released his first new album in 16 years, entitled I’m New Here. A memoir he had been working on for years up to the time of his death, The Last Holiday, was published posthumously in January 2012.

His recording work received much critical acclaim, especially one of his best-known compositions “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. Gil Scott-Heron received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He also is included in the exhibits at the National Museum of African American History and Culture that officially opened on Sept. 24, 2016 on the National Mall, and in an NMAAHC publication, Dream a World Anew. During the museum’s opening ceremonies, the Sylvan Theater on the monument grounds was temporarily named the Gil Scott-Heron stage.

The Revolution Will Not be Televised

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is a poem and song by Gil Scott-Heron. Scott-Heron first recorded it for his 1970 album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, on which he recited the lyrics, accompanied by congas and bongo drums. A re-recorded version, with a full band, was the B-side to Scott-Heron’s first single, “Home Is Where the Hatred Is”, from his album Pieces of a Man (1971). It was also included on his compilation album, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (1974).

Cultural references found in The Revolution Will Not Be Televised:

  • “Plug in, turn on, and cop out”, a reference to Timothy Leary’s pro-LSD phrase “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
  • “Skag”, slang term for heroin
  • Xerox, best-known manufacturer (at the time of the poem’s writing) of photocopying machines
  • Richard Nixon, 37th president of the United States
  • John N. Mitchell, U.S. Attorney General under Nixon
  • General Creighton Abrams, one of the commanders of military operations in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War
  • Mendel Rivers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee during the period of the Vietnam War
  • Spiro Agnew, 39th vice president of the United States under Nixon
  • “Hog maws”, sometimes misheard as “hog moss”, soul food made from the lining of the stomach, or maw, of a pig
  • Schaefer Award Theater, radio show by Dick Clark
  • Natalie Wood, film actress
  • Steve McQueen, film actor
  • Bullwinkle, cartoon character
  • Julia, a TV half-hour sitcom series starring Diahann Carroll, which was seen by many as a very patronizing depiction of then-current race relations.
  • “Give your mouth sex appeal”, from Ultra Brite toothpaste advertising
  • “The revolution will not get rid of the nubs”, the nubs being beard stubble, from a Schick razor advertisement of the period
  • Willie Mays, one of the first African Americans to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era (since 1900).
  • “NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32”, a reference to television networks predicting the winner of presidential elections shortly after the polls close at 8:00.
  • Whitney Young, civil rights leader
  • Roy Wilkins, executive director of the NAACP
  • Watts, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, referring to the Watts Riots of 1965
  • “Red, black, and green”, the colors of the Pan-African flag
  • Green Acres, a U.S. television sitcom
  • The Beverly Hillbillies, a U.S. television sitcom
  • “Hooterville Junction”, fictional setting of Green Acres and Petticoat Junction
  • Dick and Jane, white children, a brother and sister, featured in American basal readers
  • Search for Tomorrow, a popular U.S. television soap opera
  • “Women liberationists”, a reference to members of the feminist movement
  • Jackie Onassis, the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s widow, seen during the period in television broadcasts of John F. Kennedy memorials
  • Jim Webb, U.S. composer
  • Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
  • Glen Campbell, U.S. pop music singer
  • Tom Jones, Welsh pop music singer
  • Johnny Cash, U.S. country music singer
  • Engelbert Humperdinck, British pop music singer
  • Rare Earth, all-white U.S. pop music band signed to Motown Records
  • “White tornado”, advertising slogan for Ajax cleanser, “Ajax cleans like a white tornado”
  • “White lightning”, a slang term for moonshine, the name of a 1950s country and western song by George Jones, and an American psychedelic rock band. This could also be a reference to the advertising for the Mountain Dew soft drink, which was briefly renamed “White Lightning” in the mid-1960s.
  • “Dove in your bedroom”, an advertising image associated with Dove anti-perspirant deodorant
  • reference to “Put a tiger in your tank”, an Exxon advertising slogan created by Chicago copywriter Emery Smith
  • “Giant in your toilet bowl”, a combination reference to the advertising of Salvo laundry detergent, which promised to “Put a giant in your washer!”, and Ty-D-Bowl toilet cleaner, whose commercials featured a diminutive man boating in a toilet tank.
  • reference to “Things go better with Coke”, a Coca-Cola advertising slogan
  • reference to “Fights germs that may cause bad breath”, from Listerine advertising
  • reference to “Let Hertz put you in the driver’s seat”, advertising slogan for Hertz car rental

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – 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,
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 4 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 May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in 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 life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets 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,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
bbout a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the 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.

  • Audio from the 1971 album, Pieces of a Man: