Free Will (album)

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Free Will
Free Will cover.jpg
Studio album by Gil Scott-Heron
Released August 1972
Recorded March 2–3, 1972
RCA Studios
(New York, New York)
Genre Soul, jazz-funk, jazz poetry, jazz, proto-rap
Length 36:43
Label Flying Dutchman/RCA
Producer Bob Thiele
Gil Scott-Heron chronology
Pieces of a Man
Free Will
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[1]
Down Beat 4/5 stars[2]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[3]
The Philadelphia Inquirer 3/5 stars[4]
PopMatters (favorable)[5]
Virgin Encyclopedia 3/5 stars[6]

Free Will is the second studio album by American recording artist Gil Scott-Heron, released in August 1972 on Flying Dutchman Records. Recordings sessions for the album took place on March 2 and 3, 1972 at RCA Studios in New York City, and production was handled by producer Bob Thiele.[7] It is the follow-up to Scott-Heron's critically acclaimed studio debut, Pieces of a Man (1971), and it is the second album to feature him working with keyboardist Brian Jackson.[1] Free Will is also Scott-Heron's final studio album for Flying Dutchman.[8] The album reissued on compact disc in 2001 by Bluebird Records[7] with alternative takes of eight tracks from the original album.


Free Will featured a format which divides the LP's two sides, musically. The first side is made up of five recordings done by Scott-Heron and the entire band, which once again featured Brian Jackson playing a major role as he did on the previous album, Pieces of a Man.[1] Unlike that album, Free Will is shorter in length with tracks below the three and a half minute mark. The title track opens up the album with a meditation on personal responsibility. One of Scott-Heron's best known performances, "The Get out of the Ghetto Blues" is a moving ghetto warning and features bluesy instrumentation by pianist Brian Jackson and guitarist David Spinozza.[1] The second side functions more as a live rap session with Brian Jackson on flute and a couple of percussionists.[1] "Ain't No New Thing" emphasizes Scott-Heron's black pride, which he previously displayed on his debut album, by presenting an argument about the placement of black culture into the American mainstream:[5]

We used to white people tryin' to rob us
Why don't they try stealing some of this poverty
It ain't no new thing … anything they don't understand
They try to destroy
We used to having black innovators
copied and sent back to us
We used to having people try to rob us,
it ain't no new thing

— Gil Scott-Heron, "Ain't No New Thing"

"Wiggy" is a haiku-like appreciation of natural black hair.[6] The themes of police brutality, violence, and self-exploration are still present as they were on Scott-Heron's previous albums. "No Knock", a reference to a police policy whereby knocking is not required before entering a house, and "... And Then He Wrote Meditations", a tribute to John Coltrane, continue these themes.[1]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Free Will" Gil Scott-Heron, Brian Jackson 3:30
2. "The Middle of Your Day" Scott-Heron, Jackson 4:30
3. "The Get out of the Ghetto Blues" Scott-Heron, Jackson 5:04
4. "Speed Kills" Scott-Heron, Jackson 3:15
5. "Did You Hear What They Said?" Scott-Heron, Jackson 3:28
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. "The King Alfred Plan" Scott-Heron 2:45
7. "No Knock" Scott-Heron 2:12
8. "Wiggy" Scott-Heron 1:38
9. "Ain't No New Thing" Scott-Heron 4:29
10. "Billy Green Is Dead" Scott-Heron 1:30
11. "Sex Education: Ghetto Style" Scott-Heron 0:50
12. "... And Then He Wrote Meditations" Scott-Heron 3:14



  1. ^ a b c d e f Bush, John. Review: Free Will. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-08-02.
  2. ^ Columnist. "Review: Free Will". Down Beat: 90. December 2001.
  3. ^ Sweeting, Adam. Review: Free Will. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2009-08-02.
  4. ^ Stark, Karl. "Review: Free Will". The Philadelphia Inquirer: December 23, 2001.
  5. ^ a b Sanders, J.Victoria. Review: Free Will. PopMatters. Retrieved on 2008-07-11.
  6. ^ a b Larkin, Colin. "Review: Free Will". Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music: March 1, 2002.
  7. ^ a b c Track listing and credits as per liner notes for Free Will CD reissue
  8. ^ Bush, John. Biography: Gil Scott-Heron. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2008-07-09.


  • Gil Scott-Heron, Alex Dutilh. Free Will. reissue liner notes. Sony Music Entertainment Inc. 

External links[edit]