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Bicentennial Blues

Gil Scott-Heron

We have assigned ourselves the task of defining certain, certain trends and certain situations and, in such, have become, I guess, more so than musicians, bluesicians because we have tended to try to define certain means and modes related to the blues. We attempted to define the Lie Detector Blues, as caught by Mayor Frank Rizzo. I understand that he is sick currently. And we send our coldest regards. Lie Detector Blues and what Brian Jackson used to refer to as the Ex- Official Blues, as caught by Agnew, Nixon-it's terminal. And what we've found ourselves becoming afflicted with over the past six months or so is the Bicentennial Blues

Some people think that America invented the blues
And few people doubt that America is the home of the blues
As the bluesicians have gone all over the world, carrying the blues message
And the world has snapped its fingers and tapped its feet right along with the blues folks
But the blues has always been totally American
As American as apple pie
As American as the blues
As American as apple pie
The question is why?
Why should the blues be so at home here?
Well, America provided the atmosphere

America provided the atmosphere for the blues and the blues was born
The blues was born on the American wilderness
The blues was born on the beaches where the slave ships docked
Born on the slave man's auction block
The blues was born and carried on the howling wind
The blues grew up a slave
The blues grew up as property
The blues grew up in Nat Turner visions
The blues grew up in Harriet Tubman courage
The blues grew up in small town deprivation
The blues grew up in big city isolation
The blues grew up in the nightmares of the white man
The blues grew up in the blues, singing of Bessie and Billie and Ma
The blues grew up in Satchmo's horn, on Duke's piano and Langston's poetry, on Robeson's baritone
The point is that the blues has grown

The blues is grown now, full grown, and you can
Trace the evolution of the blues on a parallel line with the evolution of this country
From Plymouth Rock to acid-rock
From 13 states to Watergate
The blues is grown, but not the home
The blues is grown, but the country has not
The blues remembers everything the country forgot
It's a bicentennial year, and the blues is celebrating a birthday
And it's a Bicentennial Blues

America has got the blues and it's a bicentennial edition
The blues view might amuse you, but make no mistake
It's a bicentennial year
A year of hysterical importance
A year of historical importance

Ripped off like donated moments from the past
200 years ago this evening
200 years ago last evening
And what about now?
The blues is now
The blues has grown up and the country has not
The country has been ripped off
Ripped off like the Indians
Ripped off like jazz
Ripped off like nature
Ripped off like Christmas
Manhandled by media overkill
Goosed by aspiring vice presidents
Violated by commercial corporations

A bicentennial year
The year the symbol transformed into the B-U-Y centennial
Buy a car
Buy a flag
Buy a map
Until the public in mass has been bludgeoned into bicentennial submission
Or bicentennial suspicion
I fall into the latter category
It's a, a blues year
And America has got the blues
It's got the blues because of partial deification
Of partial accomplishments
Over partial periods of time
Halfway justice
Halfway liberty
Halfway equality
It's a half-ass year

And we would be silly in all our knowledge
In all our self-righteous knowledge
When we sit back and laugh and mock the things that happen in our lives
To accept anything less than the truth about this bicentennial year
And the truth relates to 200 years of people and ideas getting by
It got by George Washington
The ideas of justice, liberty, and equality
Got cold by George Washington
Slave-owner general
Ironic that the father of this country
Should be a slave owner
The father of this country a slave-owner
Having got by him, it made it easy to get by his henchman
The creators of this liberty
Who slept in the beds with the captains of slave ships
Fought alongside black freedmen in the Union Army
And left America a legacy of hypocrisy
It's a blues year

Got by Gerald Ford
Oatmeal Man
Has declared himself at odds
With people on welfare, people who get food stamps
Daycare children, the elderly, the poor, women
And people who might vote for Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan, it got by him
Acted like a actor
Acted like a liberal
Acted like General Franco when he acted like Governor of California
Now he acts like somebody might vote for him for President

It got by Jimmy Carter
Got by Jimmy Carter and got by him and his friend, the Colonel
The creators of southern-fried triple talk
A blues trio
America got the blues

It got by Henry Kissinger
The international godfather of peace
A piece of Vietnam
A piece of Laos
A piece of Angola
A piece of Cuba

A blues quartet
And America got the blues
The point is that it may get by you
For another 4 years
For another 8 years
You stuck
Playing second fiddle in a blues quartet

Got the blues looking for the first principle, which was justice
It's a blues year for justice
It's a blues year for the San Quentin 6
Looking for justice
It's a blues year for Gary Tyler
Looking for justice
It's a blues year for Reverend Ben Chaves
Looking for justice
It's a blues year for Boston
Looking for justice
It's a blues year for babies on buses
It's a blues year for mothers and fathers with babies on buses
It's a blues year for Boston

And it's a blues year all over this country
America has got the blues
And the blues is in the street looking for the 3 principles
Justice, liberty, and equality
We would do well to join the blues looking for justice, liberty, and equality
The blues is in the street
America has got the blues
But don't let it get by us

Thank you very much

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