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Music / Winter in America

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Peace go with you brother......
"At the end of 360 degrees, Winter is a metaphor: a term not only used to describe the season of ice, but the period of our lives through which we are travelling. In our hearts we feel that spring is just around the corner: a spring of brotherhood and united spirits among people of color. Everyone is moving, searching. There is a restlessness within our souls that keeps us questioning, discovering and struggling against a system that will not allow us space and time for fresh expression. Western icemen have attempted to distort time. Extra months on the calendar and daylight saved what was Eastern Standard. We approach winter the most depressing period in the history of this industrial empire, with threats of oil shortages and energy crises. But we, as Black people, have been a source of endless energy, endless beauty and endless determination. I have many things to tell you about tomorrow’s love and light. We will see you in Spring."
- Gil Scott-Heron in the liner notes of the original LP release of Winter in America
Let me lay down by a stream
And let me be miles from everything
Rivers of my fathers
Could you carry me home?
- "Rivers of my Fathers"

Winter in America is a studio album by Afro-American poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron and keyboardist Brian Jackson.

Both Scott-Heron's and Jackson's third collaboration (Jackson having appeared on Scott-Heron's previous records Pieces of a Man and Free Will) and thier debut on the Strata-East label, they heavily uutilized a sparse production quality and a small supporting line-up of session musicians, allowing them to focus on more traditional styles influenced by African music and the blues. It would also incorporate heavy influence from jazz, particularly the free jazz stylings of artists such as Pharoah Sanders which were being developed at the time. Lending the record a lush, almost settled melodiousness.

Winter in America would also lyrically and thematically deal with the concepts of decay and disillusionment within the Afro-American community. It was released at a time when several Afro-American movements (Civil Rights Movement, Black Panther Party) had either lost momentum or (in the Panthers' case) been neutralized by the end of the previous decade. This gave the record a perspective of people trying to maintain their faith in their cultural roots in a bleak and demoralizing environment.

Upon its original stereo LP release in May 1974, the album had a small supply and distribution of vinyl copies due to the Strata-East label's independent distribution policy of their artists' releases. Because of this, Winter in America was considered by many fans to be the great "lost" Gil Scott-Heron album, before a proper re-release on CD in 1998. However, despite this, it was much more commercially successful than his previous records, with the album's only single, "The Bottle" landing on the R&B singles chart and the album itself charting on the Top Jazz Albums. Critically, it would overlooked upon its release, however, it would gain retrospective acclaim many would later consider as Scott-Heron's and Jackson's greatest work together, as well as an influence upon future black music genres such as Hip-Hop and neo soul.


Side A
  1. "Peace Go With You, Brother (As-Salaam-Alaikum)" (5:27)
  2. "Rivers of my Fathers" (8:19)
  3. "A Very Precious Time" (5:17)
  4. "Back Home" (2:51)

Side B

  1. "The Bottle" (5:14)
  2. "Song for Bobby Smith" (4:38)
  3. "Your Daddy Loves You" (3:25)
  4. "H2Ogate Blues" (8:08)
  5. "Peace Go With You, Brother (Wa-Alaikum-Salaam)" (1:10)

1998 CD bonus tracks

  1. "Winter in America" (Live at The Wax Museum, 1982) (8:23)
  2. "Song for Bobby Smith" (alternate take) (4:46)
  3. "Your Daddy Loves You" (Live at Blues Alley, 1981) (4:25)
  4. "The Bottle / Guan Guanco" (Live at Blues Alley, 1981) (11:56)

Very Precious Tropes

  • Addiction Song: "The Bottle" details several characters suffering from various issues stemming from alcoholism.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The sub-title to "Peace Go With You Brother", "As-Salaam-Alaikum" (and on the latter version, "Wa-Alaikum-Salaam"), roughly means "peace be upon you" in Arabic.
  • Blues: Winter in America would be rooted in this genre, with the record having massive influence from it in both sound and imagery.
  • Book Ends: Winter in America (on its original LP release) begins and ends with different versions of the song "Peace Go With You Brother", the second much shorter than the first.
  • Concept Album: ''Winter in America' primarily deals with themes of pain, decadence and poverty in Afro-American communities, with a unifying theme of hope bolstered by faith in one's culture tying the record together.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover by Eugene Coles, which depicts a collage of patterned shapes that form an ambiguous landscape inhabited by a single, isolated figure.
  • Epic Rocking: Various tracks on the original LP breached the five minute mark, with tracks like "Rivers of my Fathers" and "H2Ogate Blues" reaching up to eight minutes by themselves. But the CD re-issue saw longer tracks being added to the fray with "The Bottle / Guan Guanco" being four seconds shy of twelve minutes.
  • Genre Mashup: Winter in America would mesh soul, jazz, funk and blues music with traditional African music styles ("Rivers of my Fathers") and Scott-Heron's own idiosyncratic spoken word, "proto-rap" style ("H2Ogate Blues").
  • Homesickness Hymn: "Back Home" is one seeing Gil reminisce on his life in the American South away from the inner city.
    • "Rivers of my Fathers" is another example, with the track using the imagery of rivers and water to set the scene of being guided back home. Which, on this track, is Africa.
  • Jazz: The record would take heavy influence from the free jazz and jazz funk stylings present during its recording and release.
  • Live Album: Three of the bonus tracks included on the CD re-issue would feature live versions of tracks on the main LP.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: On the CD re-issue with a live version of "The Bottle" which segues into a second half titled "Guan Guanco", all of which lasts for nearly twelve minutes.
  • Meaningful Name: How appropriate for a song titled "H2Ogate Blues" to cover a controversy called the Watergate scandal.
    • Winter in America is one as explained by the page quote. With the title being a metaphor for the state of the America during the 1970s as well as a descriptor for the overall atmosphere and theme of the album.
  • Miniscule Rocking: The second version of "Peace Go With You Brother", which lasts a minute and 10 seconds.
  • Parental Love Song: "Your Daddy Loves You" which was written in dedication to Gil's daughter, Gia Louise.
  • Protest Song: "H2Ogate Blues" is one for the Nixon administration of the time. It being a scathing criticism of him and everyone involved in the Watergate scandal.
    • "Winter in America" is also one, containing themes of social disillusionment and a dystopian state with references to the decay of the environment and the suffering of America's indigenous peoples as well as Afro-Americans.
  • Pun-Based Title: "H2Ogate Blues"
  • Record Producer: Scott-Heron and Jackson, who were credited for production under the title Perpis-Fall Music, Inc..
  • Soul: The record would showcase a distinct style of the genre.
  • Spoken Word: Utilized on different tracks, but none moreso than "H
Ogate Blues".