It has a strange allure …
Of all the the songs that I have crammed into the now 11 episodes I have done for this wondrous site, the song that people have asked me most about is, “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution” by the Last Poets (featured on episode #7). “Jesus, Chris, do you have something against black people?” I was asked recently echoing the sentiment that has been conveyed to me by several listeners of this program, “Those guys must say nigger a million times in that song”.
First off, and this should be painfully evident to those of you familiar with my show, I have no problem whatsoever with people of darker skin pigmentation. To be perfectly frank, I think discussions of race are pointless because we, myself included, are all equally worthless. My problem with the KKK has always been that their hate is narrow-minded because if you can’t hate yourself, how can you possibly hate anyone else? All joking aside, I believe that we should finally heed the words of the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and judge a man, woman or child by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. The idea that I would dislike anyone solely because of the color their skin is preposterous. Those of you unfortunate enough to know me personally can surely attest that a don’t have a racist bone in my body and I find it funny that any of you would suggest (even in jest) anything to the contrary.
And the tune isn’t new either as some people have asked. As I stated on the initial post, the song was recorded in 1970. Here is some history on the groundbreaking group:
Shortly after the death of Martin Luther King, The Last Poets were born. David Nelson, Gylan Kain, and Abiodun Oyewole, were born on the anniversary of Malcolm X’s birthday May 19, 1968 in Marcus Garvey Park. They grew from three poets and a drummer to seven young black and Hispanic artists: David Nelson, Gylan Kain, Abiodun Oyewole, Felipe Luciano, Umar Bin Hassan, Jalal Nurridin, and Suliamn El Hadi (Gil Scott Heron was never a member of the group). They took their name from a poem by South African poet Willie Kgositsile, who posited the necessity of putting aside poetry in the face of looming revolution.
Almost 40 years later, this tune still makes people uncomfortable. To me, that is a testament to it’s greatness. The importance of the group’s work can not be overstated and they stand as one of most influential groups of great American 20th century music making. Their gratuitous use of universally reviled racial slur is sure to offend today as much as it did way back in 1970, but when you listen to in in the context of their work, you understand why they choose to use such inflammatory rhetoric. They were pissed. Not pissed in a juvenile need to offend, but pissed with a righteousness over the plight of black America during that turbulent era. They were Malcolm X with beats. Even if you only have a cursory understanding of black history in America, this articulation of rage, perfectly justifiable rage by any stretch of the imagination, shouldn’t surprise you. The fact that they blamed blacks themselves (in part) for for their plight is what makes this particular tune such a jarring listen but, regardless of color, the lesson I get from not only this song but their entire body of work is the importance of personal responsibility.
And to me, that is a lesson we all need to live by. You can’t have freedom without responsibility. They are one in the same. Until that lesson is learned, we all are going to be scared of revolution.
Speaking of responsible folks, my friend and comrade Nicolai Creatore is manning the kitchen at the recently reopened Patrick Henry Inn on Church Hill (23rd and Broad St.). Having worked side by side with the man for 5 years during his tenure at Millie’s Diner, I can personally attest to his culinary worth. Simply put, Nic makes great food. The prices are more than reasonable and he takes fiendish delight in making food that is designed to please any pallet. The place doesn’t sell booze yet, but if you have a powerful hankering to fill your belly with the good stuff, Patrick Henry Inn is there for you.
On this week’s show, you’ll hear the usual assortment of groups and artists that prove their are only two types of music; good and otherwise. Linton Kwesi Johnson, The Bobby Hammack Combo, The Voices of Como, Daniel Johnston are but just a few of the music makers you’ll hear that, in my ever-so-humble musical opinion, fall into the first category. I never bother listening to anything in the second.
Until Next Time:
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