Gil Scott-Heron The Voice of Black Culture Dead at 62


By Gary A. Johnson

Gil Scott-Heron, the poet and recording artist whose unique voice and syncopated rhythmic style and views on politics, racism and other social issues died on Friday (May 27, 2011) at St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan.  He was 62 years old.

Scott-Heron preferred to call himself a “bluesologist,” drawing on the traditions of blues, jazz and Harlem Renaissance poetics.  He often bristled at the notion of being known as the “Godfather of Rap.”   However, one can make a solid argument that modern day rap borrowed heavily from the stylistic inflections, intonations and tones of Gil Scott-Heron. 

Whether he wants it or not, the accolades awarded to Gil Scott-Heron by young rappers and musical artists are proof of his legacy.  When news of his death became public artist such as Diddy, Eminem, Usher, Snoop Dogg, QuestLove and Chuck D. immediately took to Twitter to pay their respects to the man who influenced them and their music.  That says a lot about the legacy of Gil Scott Heron.

The song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” made Gil Scott Heron a cult-like figure in 1971.

Gil Scott-Heron released more than 20 albums, and his work was included in more than 10 compilations.  He was also an accomplished author.  He published six novels, one of which — a mystery called “The Vulture” — came out when he was just 19.  He was one of the first acts that music executive Clive Davis signed after launching Arista Records.  By the mid-1980’s Scott-Heron started to fade from the public eye.  In recent years he’s had a very public battle with addiction, most notably cocaine.  Since 2001, Scott-Heron was convicted twice for cocaine possession, and he served a sentence at  Rikers Island prison in New York for parole violation.

Despite these challenges, Scott-Heron managed to get out and tour.  Still a cult figure to many, Gil Scott-Heron last year released an album of new material, his first in 16 years.  Gil Scott-Heron’s latest release, “I’ll Take Care Of You,” is available on his official web site located at http://gilscottheron.net.

For an exclusive and behind-the-scenes look at Gil Scott-Heron click here to check out Jamie Byng, publisher  of Canongate Books.  Jamie was a friend of Gil Scott-Heron for more than 20 years. During 2010 they recorded this interview in London where Scott-Heron talked about his life and work, interspersed with intimate performances of his music.  A fuller version of the film is scheduled to be released later in 2011.

Here’s another popular Gil Scott-Heron song, “The Bottle.”

Sources:  Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Billboard.com,  Huffington Post.com.

Photo credit:  Mischa Richter

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One Response to “Gil Scott-Heron The Voice of Black Culture Dead at 62”

  1. E-shan curry Says:

    RIP GIL SCOTT HERON . a man that stood up for himself and his people. TRWNBT.AND rappers please stop sampleing that music and not giving these musical talents money that is wrong james brown barry white curtis mayfield . issac hayes. mevin bliss. etc.

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