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Daily Helping for December 4th, 2020 – Michael Kiwanuka – Hero

A photo still of Michael Kiwanuka sitting on a bed playing a guitar in the music video for Hero.

My first thought upon hearing this song was that Jimi Hendrix was back. And I mean that in the best possible way. “Hero” feels like something straight out of the late 60s or 70s, and yet it also feels very much of the here and now. And don’t let the slow burn of the song’s opening fool you. This is a classic rock song that hits all the right notes. I looked it up afterwards, and musician Michael Kiwanuka is very open about his love of Hendrix and the influence the guitar legend has had on Kiwanuka’s work. It just goes to show how one person can continue to influence generations after they’re gone.

Which, incidentally, is the whole point of this song. Kiwanuka sings about whether or not he is a hero, and what it would mean to be immortalized as such. What it would take. What it would cost. And not just as a musician. Kiwanuka says that this song was inspired by the story of Fred Hampton, a civil rights leader within the Chicago Black Panthers. Hampton was assassinated by the FBI on this day back in 1969 at the age 21, leaving behind a storied legacy for someone so young. The video for “Hero” pays homage to Hampton and the civil rights movement in general. It also very pointedly portrays how groups like the Black Panthers were tracked by law enforcement agencies, and the cost of that surveillance. In the end, the video reminds us of just how many of these leaders became heroes at the expense of their lives.

A classic sound, a poignant message, and a historical tribute. “Hero” is a fantastic song all around. I can’t wait to check out more of Michael Kiwanuka’s work, but until then, I’ve got my soundtrack for the weekend all set.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!