Home Hear Random Number | Gil Scott-Heron: Whitey on the Moon

Random Number | Gil Scott-Heron: Whitey on the Moon

The poet's potent protest track is one moon-related number you need to hear.

Amid all the moon-related musical performances and playlists you’re sure to encounter during this week’s 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, here’s a number that I suspect will be mostly overlooked: Gil Scott-Heron’s classic spoken-word protest Whitey on the Moon. And no wonder. With just a few simple lines set to a percolating conga rhythm, Scott-Heron brilliantly points out the meaningless absurdity of space travel when there are still so many problems to fix down here on Earth. Half a century later — at a time when tech billionaires spend their fortunes racing to Mars instead of repairing the planet we are rapidly destroying — Whitey on the Moon is still every bit as relevant as the day it was written. Which is why I was pleased (if somewhat surprised) to see that Leon Bridges contributed a faithful cover for the soundtrack of the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man last year. Listen to Scott-Heron’s version above — and Bridges’ below — before you swallow all that lofty rhetoric about giant leaps and whatnot.