We're rockers and rappers united and strong
We're here to talk about South Africa
We don't like what's going on
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Sun City Resort and Casino
The stereotypical writer of detective stories is seen hunched over a typewriter plotting some murder or three. Gil Scott-Heron, who died in 2011, aged 62, was some of the above. He began by writing detective novels, but soon moved to writing and making music. And his music was often heavy with political commentary. He was part of the counter-culture and decidedly on the left. One of his more famous lines is, "The revolution will not be televised, brother."
He was born in Chicago, raised in Tennessee, and lived for a long time in Harlem. He was often called the Godfather of Rap, a moniker about which he once wrote, "I don't know if I can take the blame for it."
He recorded more than 12 albums, influenced many artists, and was active in music right up until he died. He had a drug problem, which saw him incarcerated for a number of years, only being released as recently as 2007. His albums never rose to any heights on the charts, and he was a man who shunned the fripperies of fame. He was more into jazz than rap. And he certainly had a way with words. A friend once became a father of a baby girl and Scott-Heron wrote to the new dad, explaining that, while many men may yearn for a son, "to heir is human, but little girls are divine."
Two themes which caught his attention were apartheid and nuclear energy. He was strongly anti- both. In the song "Sun City," he was one of 54 artists who combined to record and promote the song.
12-inch record, c 1985
Sun City is a casino and resort with a game reserve about two hours' drive from Johannesburg in South Africa. It was built in the late 1970s and became a symbol of the political climate in South Africa at the time when apartheid was alive and well. It was a whites-only resort, and in 1985 a song was released by dozens of artists voicing their disapproval at apartheid. As the lyrics went, they "ain't going to play Sun City."
Mind you, many did,
including Frank Sinatra, Elton John, and Julio Iglesias. But the Artists United Against Apartheid group, including Gil Scott-Heron, stood their ground and told the world how they felt.
Some of the artists involved were Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Pete Townshend, and Pat Benatar. The song didn't do all that well in the USA where many radio stations refused to play it. There were 303 tracks which were mixed down to make the recording. That's a lot of mixing! Pity the races weren't allow to mix, too.
~ Cenarth Fox
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