Things Are About To Get A Little Bit Funky And A Little Bit Jazzy #TBT: Gil Scott-Heron – The Bottle

Throw In Some Blues Notes And Soul Undertones And You Have A Classic Black Power Anthem

The late ’60s and early ’70s in America were times of immense social and political upheaval, the self-determination of the African-American community permeated itself into pop culture and Gil Scott-Heron’s 1974 poetic track ‘The Bottle’ is the perfect example of that.

On the back of the civil rights movement and the worst of the Vietnam War, the Black community in America were angry and needed a voice in this new society they had helped create.

A lot of people, despite the end of segregation and equal rights for African-Americans, were very poor. Vietnam veterans, who served their country with pride, especially were ostracised from society and often turned to depend on vices like drugs and alcohol.

Scott-Heron’s ‘The Bottle’ comments on exactly that. The song opens with a powerful message that continues as a theme throughout the track – “See that black boy over there runnin’ scared, his old man in a bottle/ He done quit his 9 to 5, he drink full time and now he’s livin’ in a bottle.”

One of music’s great observers and poets Gil Scott-Heron (keys) teamed up with Brian Jackson (flute) to create the classic 1974 album Winter In America which features ‘The Bottle‘. Scott-Heron’s soulful vocals and hard-hitting lyrics along with his expert keys establish the beat of this funky tune. Jackson comes in at various points and jazzes it up with scat flute playing.

Some Of Scott-Heron's (L) Last Work Was His Collaboration With Jamie xx (R).
Some Of Scott-Heron’s (L) Last Work Was His Collaboration With Jamie xx (R).

The song appealed to people on many levels. Despite it’s dark themes, it’s funky groove meant it was a favourite at parties and a dance floor classic in the ’70s. Even Scott-Heron could admit that his most well-known track is a bit ‘poppy’ but said “Pop music doesn’t necessarily have to be shit.” Too true Gil.

Scott-Heron sadly passed away in 2011 at the age of 62 but he has left behind a lasting legacy in African-American culture with this absolute stormer.


Calum Woodger

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