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The poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron died on 27th May 2011. His last album I’m New Here is very moving.

I find myself listening over and over to a couple of his songs entitled “On Coming From A Broken Home” Parts 1 & 2.

In the first part he describes moving in to live with his grandmother;

“temporarily, just until things were patched,

Til this was patched and til that was patched

Until I became at 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10

The patch that held Lily Scott who held me and like them 4

I become one more and I loved her

From the absolute marrow of my bones

And we was holdin on,

I come from a broken home”

In the second part he turns against the experts in social policy, what he calls “every -ologist”

“I came from what they 'called' a broken home But if they ever really called at our house

They would have known how wrong they were

We were working on our lives and our homes

Dealing with what we had, not what we didn’t have”

Each time I listen to these tracks I find a different meaning or resonance in them. Sometimes they remind me of the tremendous resilience that people have in the face of adversity, sometimes they make me think of how intertwined we are in the lives of each other and sometimes they challenge me.

The RSA has done some very interesting work on the concept of ‘ingenuity’. We argue that ingenuity can best be understood as applying creative solutions to practical problems by combining a few available resources in a surprising way.

I think this is a good description of both Gil Scott-Heron’s poetry and the life that he describes and that would be familiar to many of us, growing up with not much to go round “dealing with what we had, not what we didn’t have”



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