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"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" is a poem and song by Gil Scott-Heron. Scott-Heron first recorded it for his 1970 album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, on which he recited the lyrics, accompanied by congas and bongo drums. 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). All these releases were issued on the Flying Dutchman Productions record label.
The song's title was originally a popular slogan among the 1960s protest movements in the United States.
In an interview Scott-Heron said of the song "That song was about your mind. You have to change your mind before you change the way you live and the way you move...The thing that's going to change people will be something that no one will ever be able to capture on film. It will just be something you see and all of a sudden you realize 'I'm on the wrong page.'"
In June 2013 a sign was posted on a window inside the Greek state broadcaster ERT as employees resisted its closure by the government under pressure by the "troika" of EU, ECB and IMF to cut public spending under their austerity regime.
- "Plug in, turn on, and cop out", a reference to Timothy Leary's pro-LSD phrase "Turn on, tune in, drop out."
- "Skag", slang term for heroin
- Xerox, best-known manufacturer (at the time of the poem's writing) of photocopying machines
- Richard Nixon, 37th president of the United States
- John N. Mitchell, U.S. Attorney General under Nixon
- General Creighton Abrams, one of the commanders of military operations in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War
- Mendel Rivers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee during the period of the Vietnam War
- Spiro Agnew, 39th vice president of the United States under Nixon
- "Hog maws", sometimes misheard as "hog moss", soul food made from the lining of the stomach, or maw, of a pig
- Schaefer Award Theatre, an anthology of theatrical films that aired on several U.S. TV stations
- Natalie Wood, film actress
- Steve McQueen, film actor
- Bullwinkle, cartoon character
- Julia, a TV half-hour sitcom series starring Diahann Carroll.
- "Give your mouth sex appeal", from Ultra Brite toothpaste advertising
- "The revolution will not get rid of the nubs", the nubs being beard stubble, from a Gillette Techmatic razor advertisement of the period
- Either Willie May, a sprinter, or Willie Mays, a baseball player; the context is unclear from the line which has "you" and May(s) "pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run."
- "NBC will not be able to predict the winner at 8:32", a reference to television networks predicting the winner of presidential elections shortly after the polls close at 8 pm.
- Whitney Young, civil rights leader
- Roy Wilkins, executive director of the NAACP
- Watts, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, alluding to the Watts Riots of 1965
- "Red, black, and green", the colors of the Pan-African flag
- Green Acres, a U.S. television sitcom
- The Beverly Hillbillies, a U.S. television sitcom
- "Hooterville Junction" (a corruption of Petticoat Junction, a U.S. television sitcom)
- Dick and Jane, white children, a brother and sister, featured in American basal readers
- Search for Tomorrow, a popular U.S. television soap opera
- "Hairy-armed women liberationists", a reference to mid-century members of the feminist movement
- Jackie Onassis, the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy's widow, seen during the period in television broadcasts of John F. Kennedy memorials
- Jim Webb, U.S. composer
- Francis Scott Key, lyricist of "The Star-Spangled Banner"
- Glen Campbell, U.S. pop/country music singer
- Tom Jones, Welsh pop music singer
- Johnny Cash, U.S. country music singer
- Engelbert Humperdinck, British pop music singer
- Rare Earth, all-white U.S. pop music band signed to Motown Records
- "White tornado", advertising slogan for Ajax cleanser, "Ajax cleans like a white tornado"
- "White lightning", a slang term for moonshine, the name of a 1950s country and western song by George Jones, and an American psychedelic rock band.
- "Dove in your bedroom", an advertising image associated with Dove anti-perspirant deodorant
- Reference to "Put a tiger in your tank", an Esso (now Exxon) advertising slogan created by Chicago copywriter Emery Smith
- "Giant in your toilet bowl," a reference to Liquid-Plumr commercials saying that it cleared so well it was like "having a giant in your toilet bowl" with an animation of a large arm using a plunger on your toilet.
- Reference to "Things go better with Coke", a Coca-Cola advertising slogan
- Reference to "Fights germs that may cause bad breath", from Listerine advertising
- Reference to "Let Hertz put you in the driver's seat", advertising slogan for Hertz car rental
- Roy Clark's 1972 song "The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka" alludes to the song in its title. Scott-Heron had accurately predicted that as part of the revolution, several TV shows (mentioned above) that were popular with rural audiences would no longer be relevant; indeed, all but one of them had been canceled by 1971 as part of a programming strategy known as the rural purge. Nevertheless, two such shows, the subjects of Clark's response, survived and thrived by entering syndication, countering the revolution.
- In the beginning of Hip hop artist Common's song "The 6th Sense" from the 2000 album, Like Water for Chocolate he states "The revolution will not be televised, the revolution is here."
- Elvis Costello's song "Invasion Hit Parade" from his 1991 album Mighty Like a Rose contains the lines "Incidentally the revolution will be televised/With one head for business and another for good looks/Until they started arriving with their rubber aprons and their butcher's hooks," an allusion to the song.
- The Sarah Jones song "Your Revolution," a feminist interpretation of the song criticizing misogyny in mainstream hip hop, with the key line "Your revolution will not happen between these thighs"). A radio station that played the song was fined by the FCC.
- In the mid-1990s, hip-hop/rap artist KRS-One recorded a re-imagining of the song using different lyrics, written by Wieden+Kennedy copywriter Stacy Wall, for "Revolution," a Jake Scott-directed Nike commercial featuring Jason Kidd, Jim Jackson, Eddie Jones, Joe Smith, and Kevin Garnett.
- The opening line of "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach", performed by Snoop Dogg on the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach, is "The revolution will be televised".
- A cover was recorded by singing trio Labelle as part of a two-part medley for their 1973 album, Pressure Cookin'.
- Molotov, a Mexican Rock Band with political inspirations, have recorded a cover entitled "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (La Revo)" for their 2004 album "Con Todo Respeto." They translated the lyrics to Spanish and added their own lyrics that applied to the social context in Mexico.
- On their 1999 album "Ad Finité" the band Genaside II has a song called " The Genaside Will Not Be Televised", where some words of the original text were changed, such as different film actors being named.
- Christian folk singer Josh Garrels references the poem in "The Resistance," a song about the return of Christ from his 2011 album, Love & War & The Sea In Between, saying, "the liberation will not be televised / when it arrives like lightning in the skies."
- In 1998, Prince's band The New Power Generation released a 1998 one-off single entitled "The War", where the title track's hook repeats a paraphrasing of the title: "One, two; the revolution will be colorized..."