Gil Scott-Heron, poet and musician credited as a "Godfather of rap" and pioneer of hiphop, has died at the age of 62. Scott-Heron wrote an anti-nuclear ballad, "We Almost Lost Detroit," and performed it at the Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) anti-nuclear concerts at Madison Square Garden and Battery Park, New York, in 1979 after the Three Mile Island meltdown. The song refers to the 1966 partial meltdown of the Fermi 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor in Monroe, Michigan -- first proposed by Detroit Edison to generate plutonium for the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal in the early 1950s, with electricity as an afterthought. The song's title comes from the classic book by John G. Fuller, which first revealed the accident to the general public a decade after it happened. Here is a YouTube of Gil Scott-Heron performing "We Almost Lost Detroit" in London in 1990. And here are the lyrics of Gil Scott-Heron's "We Almost Lost Detroit." His 1979 lyrics were very prescient, given what happened 25 years ago at Chernobyl, and what's unfolding today at Fukushima Daiichi:
"We almost lost Detroit
How would we ever get over
losing our minds?
Cause odds are,
we gonna lose somewhere, one time.
we gonna lose somewhere sometime.
And how would we ever get over
losing our minds?"
Gil Scott-Heron concluded (in rhyme, of course) "When it comes to people's safety, Money wins out every time." The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Office of Inspector General agrees with him. It has concluded, at both Millstone in Connecticut in 1996 (in terms of high-level radioactive waste storage pool risks), and at Davis-Besse in Ohio (visible with the naked eye across Lake Erie from Fermi in Michigan, in regards to age-related degradation reactor risks) in 2002, that public safety has taken a back seat to nuclear utility profits at the agency supposedly devoted to protecting public health, safety, and the environment. Of course, these are but two of countless additional examples which could be cited.