Gil Scott-Heron – The Bottle (1974) single

“The Bottle” is a social commentary on alcohol abuse with Scott-Heron wrote it after seeing men line up every day in front of a liquor store called the Log Cabin, bringing back their empty bottles to get a discount on their next purchase. Scott-Heron said  “I discovered one of them was an ex-physician, who’d been busted for abortions on young girls. There was an air traffic controller in the military – one day he sent two jets crashing into a mountain. He left work that day and never went back.”

Scott-Heron had a long struggle with substance abuse, which Alec Wilkinson traced in a painful Profile of the musician and poet in the magazine last year. It was a struggle Scott-Heron often addressed in his music, in songs from the searing “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” to the infectiously danceable “The Bottle,” both of them zeniths of Scott-Heron’s tremendously fruitful collaboration with the musician Brian Jackson. Often d.j.s will drop a needle on “The Bottle” at a climactic moment in a party, driving the crowd wild, and even while dancing along I’ve been struck by the irony of half-drunk people raving it up to what is a essentially a biting sermon about the ravages of alcohol. But the sound is so exultant that the message is easy to miss. Most elusive and devastating of all is the song’s almost tossed-off final verse, when Scott-Heron flips to the first person: “Let me tell you a little secret / If you ever come looking for me / you know where I’m bound to be: / in the bottle. / Look around on any corner / if you see some brother looking like a goner / it’s gonna be me…


The Bottle mp3




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