Friday, April 2, 2021

Jerry Pendergast on Gil Scott Heron—National Poetry Month 2021

Jerry Pendergast

Jerry Pendergast is a Chicago poet and activist who frequently shares his work on the Chicago Revolutionary Poets Brigade Facebook group.  He was a regular at such city venues as the  Guild Annex and Green Mill Tavern and looks forward to returning to the stage.  His work is often infused with music, especially jazz.  He also draws inspiration from the struggles of working people and the oppressed.

                            Gil Scott Heron.

In this poem Pendergast evokes the spirit of Gil Scott Heron, the legendary musician and poet who has sometimes been called the God Father of Hip Hop verse.  For more about Heron and his most famous song/poem The Revolution Will Not Be Televised check out the lyrics from his 1971 album of the same name.

The cover of Gil Scott Heron's seminal 1970 album The Revolution Will Not be Televised 

The Heron Remembered



You called out “What's the word?”

We shouted back “Johannesburg”

Hips, shoulders feet picked up the rhythm

No floor director

called out the correct steps

Can this be played on the dance hour?

Your voice

The fingers that joined you

on the piano

the guitar

were schooled in the blues

But can we call it that?

Sax rising

Piano holding the ground

Your voice stretching

the lower register

Can we call it Jazz?

You chanted

“The Revolution will not be televised”

above percussion


You bade us

“Keep the Nerve”

“Don’t let the Spirit Die”

“Don’t Give Up”



Can the voice

soaring with the sax

fly from Watts to Harlem?

Reach a mid pitch Groove in Roxbury

Ocean currents

Carry them

To Bog side?

Can Northerlies

Blow them South

To Alabama, Arizona

Can they join the street marchers, dancers

in Honduras?



The Heron remembered

narrated the history

of the music

the struggles

But sometimes

instruments were electric

Can we call it Folk?

If the lyrics

the rhythms

are long remembered

Can we call any of his songs


If the songs

spoken word

his life

give strength

to anyone fighting

long term occupations


mass eviction

poisoned elements,

Or for the right to save seeds

Can we call them



Gil Scott Heron born on April first but he was no damn fool.


—Jerry Pendergast 

No comments:

Post a Comment