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Now and Then...

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"A poet and polemicist whose lyrics have inspired and galvanized generations."  —GQOne glance at Now and Then and it becomes evident that this is not merely a collection of a songwriter's lyrics. The song-poems of this undisputed "bluesologist" triumphantly stand on their own, evoking the rhythm and urgency which have distinguished Gil Scott-Heron's career. This collection carries the reader from the global topics of political hypocrisy and the dangers posed by capitalist culture to painfully personal themes and the realities of modern day life. His message is black, political, historically accurate, urgent, uncompromising, and mature, and as relevant now as it was in the early 1970s.

120 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2000

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About the author

Gil Scott-Heron

15 books139 followers
Gilbert Scott Heron was born in 1949. His mother was a librarian and his father a soccer player from Jamaica. In his youth Heron displayed both sporting prowess and academic ability (he won a place at Pennsylvania Lincoln University, like his role model Langston Hughes, the Harlem Renaissance man). But he quit college after the first year to write his first novel, The Vulture (1970). While Heron was writing this the ferment of black politics and student radicalism was coming to a head, and his second novel The Nigger Factory (1972) reflects these developments.
Heron has been more adventurous in his work as a musician and rapper.

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5 stars
151 (56%)
4 stars
88 (32%)
3 stars
24 (8%)
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3 (1%)
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Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews
Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,410 followers
January 26, 2013
I'm so glad I own a copy of this one. I was thinking of keeping this read for Black History Month but recently I've been listening to a lot of Gil Scott-Heron's music (which is excellent, by the way) and decided I couldn't wait to read his poetry.

This was a great collection. From his writing you can tell that Scott-Heron was many things. As well as being a musician, he was a social activist, a pacifist,an advocate for education, a person who strove for authenticity etc. Some of his poem's topics include the media, poverty, racism, family, drugs and HIV (which he calls Henry IV). There is definitely a passion in his words.

The majority of the poems in the book were written in the 70s and 80s so there were a lot of historical and political references to that time period (Watergate, Nixon, Reagan, Vietnam etc). To me it seemed ironic that decades later, Gil Scott-Heron's words still ring true, it's just the players that have changed.
Profile Image for Comfortably.
127 reviews43 followers
May 10, 2020
Είναι λίγες οι φορές που διαβάζω ένα βιβλίο σε kindle/ebook edition και ανυπομονώ να το ξαναδιαβάσω σε hardcopy κρατώντας το στα χέρια μου..
Και δε ξέρω πόσες φορές αυτό το μήνα άνοιξα το βιβλίο αυτό - έστω και σε ebook version - και το διάβαζα από άκρη σε άκρη ή απλά σκόρπια λόγια και ποιήματα.
Ο Gil Scott-Heron ήταν σπουδαίος. Τα λόγια του έχουν δύναμη, διορατικότητα, αλήθεια και φως.
Θα μπορούσα να κάνω quote όλο το βιβλίο απ τον ενθουσιασμό μου.
Αλλά θα μείνω σε αυτά τα τρία:
"Because I always feel like running
Not away, because there is no such place
Because if there was, I would have found it by now
Because it's easier to run,
Easier than staying and finding out you're the only one who didn't run
Because running will be the way your life and mine will be described,
As in "the long run"
Or as in having "given someone a run for his money"
Or as in "running out of time"
Because running makes me look like everyone else, though I hope there will never be cause for that
Because I will be running in the other direction, not running for cover
Because if I knew where cover was, I would stay there and never have to run for it
Not running for my life, because I have to be running for something of more value to be running and not in fear
Because the thing I fear cannot be escaped, eluded, avoided, hidden from, protected from, gotten away from,
Not without showing the fear as I see it now
Because closer, clearer, no sir, nearer
Because of you and because of that nice
That you quietly, quickly be causing
And because you're going to see me run soon and because you're going to know why I'm running then
You'll know then
Because I'm not going to tell you now"
*************************************
"Plastic people with plastic minds
Are on their way to plastic homes
No beginning, there ain't no ending
Just on and on and on and on and on
It's all because they're so afraid to say that they're alone.."
*************************************
"I can't pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Ten years from now I'll be payin' still.
(while Whitey's on the moon)
The man jus' upped my rent las' night.
('cause Whitey's on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey's on the moon)"
Profile Image for taylor :).
20 reviews
July 2, 2021
between school and work and *the world* i’ve been finding it difficult to read for pleasure. in my last barnes and noble binge, i bought four books, three nonfiction, and this. while i’m enjoying the nonfictions (i’m finally reading revolutionary suicide and in love with it) i can truly say that this one was a pleasure read, despite me not knowing that from the jump. gil scott heron’s lyrics are so direct, so to the point, yet still feel like a secret between us. the intersection of beautiful poetry and revolutionary thought is one that is hard to conquer, one that in my own writing, i struggle to reach. closing now and then, i’m feeling inspired and driven.

i would love recommendations for similar poets/lyricists.
Profile Image for jeremy.
1,107 reviews274 followers
May 4, 2011
now and then collects nearly five dozen of gil scott-heron's poems, many of which were also recorded and released on albums spanning three decades. as a musician, poet, proto-rapper, and novelist, the accomplished scott-heron's writing never strayed far from the sociopolitical ramifications of poverty, racism, violence, and empire. many of his poems actually have a greater effect on record, as the rhythm, cadence, and overall essence of his vocal delivery enriches his wordplay. imbued with passion, determination, and an uncanny knack for re-encoding political doublespeak, scott-heron's poems are often incisive and darkly humorous. while some of them may topically dated, their themes remain, sadly, all too timely.


work for peace

back when eisenhower was the president
golf courses was where most of his time was spent
so i never paid much attention to what the president said
because in general, i believed the general was politically dead,
but he always seemed to know how muscles were going to be flexed
he kept mumbling something about a military-industrial complex

the military and monetary
the military and monetary
the military and monetary

the military and the monetary
get together whenever they think its necessary
they have turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries,
they are turning the planet into a cemetery.

the military and the monetary
use the media as intermediaries.
they are determined to keep the citizens secondary
they make so many decisions that seem arbitrary.

we've been standing behind the 'commander-in-chief'
who was under a spotlight, shaking like a leaf
because the ship of state had landed on an economic reef
so we knew he'd be bringing us messages of grief.

the military and the monetary
were 'shielded' by january and went 'storming' into february.
they brought us pot-bellied generals as luminaries.
two weeks before i hadn't heard of the sons of bitches
and then all of a sudden they were legendary.

they took the honor from the honorary
they took the dignity from the dignitaries
they took the secrets from the secretaries
but they left the 'bitch' in 'obituary'

yeah, they had some 'smart bombs'
but they had some dumb ones as well
they scared the hell outta cnn in that baghdad hotel.

the military and the monetary
the military and monetary
the military and monetary

get together whenever they think its necessary
war in the desert sometimes sure could seem scary
but they beamed out the war to all of their subsidiaries
tried to make 'so damn insane' (saddam hussein) a worthy adversary

keeping all of the citizens secondary
scaring old folks into coronaries
making us all wonder if all of this was really, truly necessary.

we've got to work for peace.
we've got to work for peace.
if we all believed in peace we could have peace.
the only thing wrong with peace is that
you can't make no money from it.

the military and the monetary
get together whenever they think it's necessary
they have turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries
we are turning parts of the planet into a cemetery.

we hounded the ayatollah religiously,
bombed libya and killed qadafi's son hideously.
we turned our back on our allies, the panamanians
watched ollie north selling guns to the iranians
witnessed gorbachev slaughtering lithuanians
so we better warn the amish, they may bomb the pennsylvanians.

we've got to work for peace.
peace ain't coming this way.
we've got to work for peace.

peace is not (merely) the absence of war
it is the absence of the rumors of war and the threats of war
and the preparation for war.
peace is not (merely) the absence of war
we will have all touched the power of peace within ourselves.
because we will have all come to peace within ourselves.

peace ain't gonna be easy.
peace ain't gonna be free.
we've got to work for peace.
Profile Image for Rick.
778 reviews2 followers
June 19, 2015
Scott-Heron published prose and poetry even before he’d embarked very far in his musical career but much of this collection seems to be the lyrics to songs from his long recording career. Like Dylan lyrics (or song lyrics by most anyone), they play better than they read and I found myself enjoying most the ones my ears knew best.

An innovative songwriter and performer, Gil Scott-Heron was influential; but beyond influence, his political lyrics, his distinct perspective, and his linking of past to present, myth to reality, perception to misperception remain necessarily cold water tossed on the sleepy head of America. This brief book is a good resource to spend time with as you listen to his jazzy-blues recordings. The work is vibrant, caustic, a dissenter’s voice, a rebel’s cry, defiant, strong and true. Oh, and relevant.

I write this a bunch of weeks after finishing reading it but a day and a half after the racist murders, the take-back-our-country terrorist provocation, of nine African-American citizens in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Not just a church but a landmark church of resistance to slavery, Jim Crow, and those who oppose freedom, equality and justice. Scott-Heron: “The blues was born on the American wilderness / The blues was born on the beaches where the slave ships docked, / born on the slave man’s auction block / The blues was born and carried on the howling wind. / The blues grew up a slave. / The blues grew up as property. / The blues grew up in Nat Turner’s visions. / The blues grew up in Harriet Tubman’s courage. / The blues grew up in small town deprivation. / The blues grew up in the nightmares of the white man.” (Bicentennial Blues) It was a white man’s nightmare that prompted the murders of nine better Americans.

Scott-Heron also saw our propensity for inertia: “It’s winter, winter in America / and ain’t nobody fighting ‘cause nobody knows what to save … it’s winter, winter in America / and all the healers done been killed or put in jail” (Winter in America).

He also saw how television news would not get things right for fear of offending shopping (shopping, a metaphor for complacency): “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 germs that might cause bad breath. / The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat. / The revolution will not be televised / will not be televised / not be televised / be televised / The revolution will be no re-run, brothers. / The revolution will be LIVE.” (The Revolution Will Not be Televised).
August 2, 2021
Heron’s poetry is beautiful and brilliant. His cadences are superbly rhythmic, proto-rap whose messages ring louder than ever. I’d recommend listening to each piece after reading it, and possibly reading it again after the listening.
December 17, 2015
Gil Scott-Heron modestly addresses the reader in the introduction of this volume of his selected poems: "Your most significant asset is your time and your commitment to invest a portion of it considering my ideas means it is worth a sincere attempt on my part to transmit the essence of the idea."

With the passing of time, the transmission of some of these ideas could however be enhanced if the texts here presented were accompanied by clarifying remarks.

The piece 'Work for Peace' has been deemed puzzling enough to merit three footnotes, but these are the only ones that can be found in the volume. Since some of these poems are deeply rooted in the political circumstances of the times in which they have been written—a period that spans from 1970 to 1994—and generally cultural references abound, a great deal of texts would benefit from the addition of more contextual information.

Take for example the 'H2O-Gate Blues' from 1974, which contains the line 'Haldeman, Erlichmann [sic], Mitchell and Dean/It follows a pattern if you dig what I mean.' I sort of dig what Scott-Heron means, but still an explanatory note on the intricacies of the Watergate-related pattern that is alluded to would be a great addition in a future edition of this volume.
Profile Image for Charlie Eskew.
Author 3 books38 followers
May 2, 2019
This book...damn.
The worst part is I never really knew about Gil Scott-Heron until now, beyond of course his most recognizable "The Revolution Won't Be Televised." His work is filled with wit, and a display of absurdity, but mostly what I dove into, what I often find myself lacking honestly, is that ownership of his anger. His frustration at the hypocrisies and inequalities surrounding marginalized groups. Read. This. Book.
Profile Image for Baran.
10 reviews
June 28, 2021
So it's "Pride month", and I am reminded of what Gil called "The Rainbow conspiracy" on 'Comment #1' (which unfortunately isn't in this bundle). His way of critiquing the left and a lot of the revolutionaries and their potential is unmatched and still rings true to this day. He would see in 1970 if not sooner the moral and ethical ineptitude of leftist advocacy and revolutionary groups pandering to the marginalized and oppressed. He would see that a black liberation movement in the 60s and 70s would more than anything have to mean an overthrowing of capitalism as America knew at the time, a similar agenda you would see with Ella Baker, Angela Davis and James Baldwin.

Gil sang and wrote for the marginalized like only the very best and most talented could, such as Ralph Ellison. The back cover of my edition says: "Some of the funniest and most literate lyrics in all music" Time Out. Which is exactly the thing Gil would warn you against: anything less than a truly radical and outrageously confrontational civil rights movement will keep the marginalized subject wedded to the illusion of everything being fine (Pride month! Rainbow colored credit card and bank logos!).

On a micro level, Gil hits home too. His poem on a broken home will leave anyone with a less than ideal and fractured household shivering. A quote from 'On Coming From A Broken Home':

And so my life has been guided
and all the love I needed was provided
and through my mother's sacrifices I saw where her life went
to give more than birth to me, but life to me
Profile Image for Antonis Maronikolakis.
102 reviews3 followers
February 21, 2022
A very interesting and powerful read. Heron writes with a voice distinct and fearless. You can feel the rhythm in his words, and some of the poetry is breathtaking. This is definitely something everyone should experience, spectacular and unique.
Profile Image for Marlène.
258 reviews
August 16, 2012
Ce recueil de poèmes et chansons de Gil Scott-Heron vient sympathiquement compléter ses quelques albums en ma possession.
Le support écrit offre une perspective complètement différente, même si la majorité de ses textes DOIVENT être lus ou récités. C'est vraiment bon de pouvoir s'y arrêter.
Le commentaire socio-politique percutant et juste sur des États Unis (et un monde occidental) des années 70 et 80, en particulier sur l'ère Reagan (le poème 'B' Movie est un incontournable), est presque entièrement transposable à cette année 2012. Alarmant comme le monde change...
Un plaisir de richesse culturelle et de finesse.
Éteignez la télé, ouvrez-vous au monde: "the revolution will not be televised".
929 reviews26 followers
July 14, 2015
Musician, poet, social activist - Scott-Heron's poems are insightful and convicting. The quality of the poems, in terms of meter and rhyme scheme, varies from time to time, but the content is always spot on, and the poems always come across as authentic. I not only enjoyed most of the poems, I was motivated by them - motivated to be better and to do more to listen to and understand the narrative of people with different backgrounds than mine. A highly recommended collection.
Profile Image for Paul.
761 reviews15 followers
March 4, 2011
Love his music, love the weird fact that his Jamaican dad played football at Celtic and Third Lanark in Glasgow in the 1950s and this collection of lyrics/ poems is a great read. I particularly liked the ones about Ronald "Raygun" and those from the recent "I'm New Here" album.
Profile Image for Tiara walls.
43 reviews5 followers
June 5, 2018
A collection worth the read. My first introduction toe Gil Scott-Heron was through his music. I've added his to the log list of talented and influential African-American figures we should but fail to learn about in the American Public school system.
Profile Image for Matt.
500 reviews14 followers
August 13, 2017
A beautiful collection of poetry. The topical nature of many of the poems left me frequently referring to secondary sources, and I'm sure I still missed a great deal. Worth revisiting in a few years.
Profile Image for James Tracy.
Author 10 books44 followers
January 6, 2013
Read this. Stripped away of the music, GSHs poetry is laid bare in its brilliance. At once a snapshot of history and durable work.
Profile Image for Christoph.
67 reviews12 followers
January 5, 2014
I'll need to write more about this piece of timeless dissent, of 'poetry as an insurgent art', so expect a blogpost on this in the not so distant future. Tbc.
Profile Image for J.C..
Author 2 books67 followers
January 31, 2022
Gil Scott-Heron's work absorbs me more and more overtime, the more I hear his songs and read his poetry. His wordplay is on point. His rhythms are fantastic on the page and in the speakers. Also he approached everything, on screen, on stage and on the page, as if he's a regular guy. He's not writing/performing etc like a big time performer, but someone who has insights, who has seen things and has a way of saying them that catches your attention without being gimmicky, artificial or superficial. He put effort into his work to make it valuable and it shows, with great wit and style.

While working on my writing I listen to "Winter in America"almost regularly. It would appear we are still frozen in that winter. His music is timeless and the criticisms he points out are still sadly relevant and timely, and other times, show the regression from the 70's or so on how we ended up here. Like in the poem "'B'-Movie", for example. He wrote about poverty and race and other issues that are now mainstream.


I highly recommend this work, and all the rest of Gil Scott-Heron's oeuvre.
Profile Image for Janine.
9 reviews1 follower
August 23, 2020
man. myth. legend. in the words of a dear friend, GSH is not simply a poet, nor rapper, not artist but an enigma. this book has been curated so beautifully that i started the first poem in tears and ended the very last poem in the same way. his way with words, his connect to life, to art, to the issues that plagued the ordinary black people of his time; many of which still haunt their kindred, is something i cannot explain. i have never seen such Beauty in poetry until the moment i picked up this. may he rest in peace and i hope that he is crafting more songs of life wherever his soul now resides.
378 reviews
June 8, 2021
Nearly every piece blew me away. I had known “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” but none of the others. An incredible performer, his words and messages are just as effective on the page, and they sadly still resonate today.

So many favorites, including “Coming From a Broken Home,” “Whitey on the Moon,” “Bicentennial Blues,” “Space Shuttle,” Pieces of a Man,” “Work for Peace,” “Bridging.” Clever turns of phrase, and great rhythm.

With so much talk about peace and social justice and politics, I know my Dad would have loved him, and I wonder if he did.
Profile Image for Shameera Nair  Lin.
Author 1 book1 follower
July 19, 2022
Maybe I'm biased (I am, after all, writing a dissertation on Gil Scott-Heron), but he was a true visionary. Read this whilst listening to the original recordings for a full sense of what he was trying to achieve.
Profile Image for Mitch Hak.
4 reviews
September 15, 2022
Like with most great musicians and lyricists, these texts stand perfectly on their own without their musical surroundings; even adding another dimension to their message.
Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews

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