“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is the most famous and influential piece by Gil Scott-Heron. It was first recorded for Small Talk at 125th and Lenox accompanied by percussion. A re-recorded version with a full band, was the B-side to Scott-Heron’s first single, “Home Is Where the Hatred Is”, from his album Pieces of a Man (1971). It was also included on his compilation album, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (1974).
The song’s title was originally a popular slogan among the 1960s Black Power and Civil Rights movements in the United States. The lyrics reference several television series, advertising slogans and icons of entertainment and news coverage of the 60s. These serve as contrasting examples of what “the revolution will not” be or do.
Many read the poem as a comment on government powerplay and their reluctance to popularise the concept of revolution. Heron clarified that it was intended as an ironic comment on change having to begin in the individual’s mind and the heart. The true revolution happens in places that you simply won’t be able to broadcast.
The song/poem has endured through history and many contemporary artists and media reference continue to reference it today, such as the opening theme to Netflix series Homeland, as well as lyrics from Gorillaz, Lupe Fiasco, and Common.