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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised -- Gil Scott-Heron

Guest poem submitted by Paramjit Oberoi:
(Poem #1527) The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
 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
 About 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.
-- Gil Scott-Heron
These are the lyrics to Gil Scott-Heron's electrifying song, "The Revolution
Will Not be Televised" from his 1970 album "Small Talk at 125th and Lenox".
I love the contrast between the irrelevance of television, and the raw power
of *real* significant events.  Reading the poem makes you feel you're in the
middle of a revolution, and almost makes you want to get "out there" and
start shouting...  Though very powerful when read, you really have to listen
to the song to get the full effect of this piece.


[biographical information from]

One of the most important progenitors of rap music, Gil Scott-Heron's
aggressive, no-nonsense street poetry inspired a legion of intelligent
rappers while his engaging songwriting skills placed him square in the R&B
charts later in his career.  Born in Chicago but transplanted to Tennessee
for his early years, Scott-Heron spent most of his high-school years in the
Bronx, where he learned firsthand many of the experiences which later made
up his songwriting material. He had begun writing before reaching his
teenage years, however, and completed his first volume of poetry at the age
of 13.   Though he attended college in Pennsylvania, he dropped out after
one year to concentrate on his writing career and earned plaudits for his
novel, The Vulture.

Encouraged at the end of the '60s to begin recording, Scott-Heron released
his 1970 debut, Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, inspired by a volume of
poetry of the same name, and soon found success on the R&B charts.  Silent
for almost a decade after the release of his 1984 single "Re-Ron," the
proto-rapper returned to recording in the mid-'90s with a message for the
gangsta rappers who had come in his wake; Scott-Heron's 1994 album Spirits
began with "Message to the Messengers," pointed squarely at the rappers
whose influence -- positive or negative -- meant much to the children of the

13 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Mallika Chellappa said...

 A powerful poem, but sadly nothing seems to have changed in the intervening years. TV still seems to rule, and even the format of sports events has increasingly been moulded to suit this medium.

krudder222 said...

I ask for all young students that I work with to examine the great insight
of the lyrics if not hear the stimulating, strengthening sound of the delivery
of "The Revolution will not be televised". I am a GED instructor and I am
proud to be able to produce a smile of pride from the candidates that I work
with as I prepare them for the test and then ask that they remember that if I
took the damn test that I wouldn't get 100% but I will pass
I will not send them downtown to take the GED until they have developed
their skills and have taken enough simulated tests to know that they will pass
and to remember should they come across some ridiculous question that they
are there to pass the test and 94% or 84% is all they need. That must know
that they are not there to make 100%!
Always remember, I ask of the students that I work with as I ask that
they help their little brothers and sisters to begin to develop their academic
skills in reading, writing and math just as well as they had since they came
into class.
As I hug my little sisters and brothers I remind them, "The Revolution
will not be televised!"

Thank you for the energy! You gave me just one element of energy that I
can rely on and I share it!

Anonymous said...

@Mallika Chellappa
I understand why you would think that this poem is about "TV...rule" but i would disagree and say that this song is saying two things at once. That because the white man had control of TV and almost everyone had a TV, that the white TV stations would focus on making any black protesters look rash and un-American. I think this also has the meaning that "The revolution will be so cool that you're going to have to join in". Lines like "you will not be able to stay at home brother" prove this second idea.

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Anonymous said...

Am a student and am jealous of the generation which saw scott 'perform the revolution live'

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Unknown said...

The God loves righteous and faithful , i wish you become one of them , best wishes to be guided to the truth
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