Most famous for the spoken word style of social commentary exhibited in his classic, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Gil Scott-Heron passed away last week, at the age of 62. While “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” has been lauded as a countercultural anthem for decades now, I was first exposed to Sott-Heron’s cultural legacy, disappointingly enough, by a sneaker commercial. So much for growing up in the extremely postmodern era of The Eighties, where inspirational ideas were often ruined even before they could be understood. (In a related story, I was first introduced to The Beatles song “Revolution” by a commercial by the same sneaker company.)
Interestingly enough, said commercial (released in 1995) stars (now-veteran) point guard Jason Kidd, who will be leading his Dallas Mavericks into tonight’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals, against the dreaded Miami Heat. The commercial features an updated spoken word soundtrack by KRS-ONE, who assures us that “The revolution is about basketball, and basketball is the truth.” (Obviously a pre-Paul Pierce NBA.)
So while The Revolution Scott-Heron spoke of in The Sixties was about Black Power, today it is about basketball (and buying sneakers, one would assume). (That being said, it’s a pretty good commercial, as far as commercials go.) (Even if it is painfully ironic that “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” was made into a television commercial.)
It is tempting to write off any commercialized effort of a cultural anthem as a rotten bastardization of an authentic creation. Then again, for better or worse or worser still, commercials do nothing if not expose people to their product/message/medium. Maybe it’s good that homage was paid to Gil Scott-Heron, introducing his music to a new generation.
Then again, maybe it wasn’t.