Thursday, September 08, 2016

American Songs, Day 4 - "Winter in America," Gil Scott-Heron

The late Gil Scott-Heron was a tragic figure, but more importantly, a great artist who was well ahead of his time.  Listening to his early to mid-1970s work today leaves the listener almost breathless - while Scott-Heron was addressing the social issues of the day, the lessons he sought to teach can be applied just as effectively today.

"Winter in America" is by no means a happy song; it is a song about unrealized potential.  The fact that Scott-Heron points out the flaws in this country does not means that he hates this country - just that he thinks it could be much better.

It's a song of great pain, a song with numerous lyrics that could be quoted.  But I think this is my favorite verse:

The Constitution
A noble piece of paper
With free society
Struggled but it died in vain
And now Democracy is ragtime on the corner
Hoping for some rain
Looks like it's hoping
Hoping for some rain

Not a happy song.  But a great song.  And a song that gives the lie to the notion that great art can't make an effective political statement.

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