Gil Scott-Heron: Billy Green Is Dead
From Free Will (RCA, 1972)
So for all intents and purposes, the general election is set. As I was driving in the car last week listening to some GSH on the Cupertino Classic, this song really spoke to me. Thirty-six years after its release, it sounds as if it was recited on the street corner just last week and resonates just as much.
Sounding like a conversation in your local coffee shop, Gil mimics two friends jabbering about the morning paper’s headlines and last night’s television shows. With central themes that revolve around apathy and frustration, the tone turns to urgency as the subject hits close to home. Thirty-six years ago, The Righteous One spoke for the common man. Do you know a Billy Green? Or could he be you?
As O-Dub and I were chatting the other night, we talked about voters coming out in record numbers so far this election year. The next few months are sure to be full of grandstanding, name calling, Gallup polls, public opinion, overanalytic media, Blue states, Red states, and so on. With America being one of the most overweight nations today, political sugar is one additive we don’t need to digest as well.
Billy Green Is Dead (1972)
The economy’s in an uproar
The whole damn country’s in the red
Taxi fares are going up
You say, “Billy Green is dead?”
The government can’t decide on bussin’
Or at least that’s what they said
Yeah, I heard you when you told me
You said, “Billy Green was dead”
But let me tell you bout these hotpants
That this big legged sister wore
When I partied with the alphas
What, Billy took an overdose?
Well now junkies will be junkies
But did you see Gunsmoke last night?
Man, they had themselves a shootout
And folks was dyin’ left and right.
At the end when Matt was cornered
I had damn near give up hope
What you – why you keep on interrupting me?
You say, my son is taking dope?
Call the law and call the doctor!
What you mean I shouldn’t scream?
My only son is taking dope
Should I sit here like I’m pleased?
Is that familiar anybody?
Check out what’s inside your head
Because it never seems to matter
When it’s Billy Green who’s dead