ILM's 2005 collaborative mix project hoonja-doonja!

February 11, 2005

Gil Scott-Heron, "Shut 'Em Down (Jaymc Edit)"

It's 1979, and the U.S. has just suffered the worst nuclear disaster in its history, the meltdown at Three Mile Island. Amidst the ensuing public panic, as thousands of nearby residents have been potentially exposed to radiation, the media gravely debates the safety of nuclear power plants and asks what steps can be taken to prevent further failures.

And then Gil Scott-Heron steps up, armed with jubilant horns and female backup singers and his own great embittered croon, and pretty much dismisses the entire terms of the debate: "If you want perfection, if that's what it takes / Then you can't use people, don't use people, you know people make mistakes." To Gil, the only logical solution -- which many pundits aren't even considering, since we're still in the heat of the Cold War -- is to just (why not?) shut all the plants down.

I'm not normally one for political or protest songs -- half the time I don't pay attention to lyrics, anyway -- but I make an exception for Gil Scott-Heron. Where I see something like Springsteen's The Rising as sadly opportunistic, or Conor Oberst's "When the President Talks to God" as an attention-seeking stab at "seriousness," I like to imagine that Gil wakes up in the morning, reads the paper, and says, shaking his head, "Motherfucker. Looks like I got more work to do." For him, it's a duty to tell it like it is (and to dress it up in a baritone that drawls over awesome funk vamps). And for that I'm thankful.

-disc 1 ends here-

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