« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Gil Scott-Heron dies; influential poet/musician helped inspire rap

Getprev Gil Scott-Heron, whose late 1960s and early '70s poetry set to rhythmic jazz music, especially "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," was one of the most important and obvious inspirations for rap music, has died, according to his British publisher.

The poet and musician, who had long struggled with drug addiction, had in the past two years returned into the public eye with an acclaimed solo recording, "I'm New Here," and a follow-up remix album done by Jamie xx of the British group the XX. Scott-Heron was 62.

Last year the New Yorker published a reverent but heartbreaking profile of Scott-Heron by Alec Wilkinson.  Written after Scott-Heron had recorded "I'm New Here" but after he had relapsed and was smoking crack openly in front of the reporter, the story traced his rise, his fall and his influence.

In an interview for the feature, bassist Ron Carter, who played on "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," described Scott-Heron's allure: "He wasn't a great singer, but with that voice, if he had whispered it would have been dynamic. It was a voice like you would have for Shakespeare."

In the same story, which is behind a paywall here, rapper Chuck D. discusses the role Scott-Heron played in the birth of rap: "You can go into the beat poets and [Allen] Ginsberg and [Bob] Dylan, but Gil Scott-Heron is the manifestation of the modern world. He and the Last Poets set the stage for everyone else. In what way necessary? Well, if you try and make pancakes and you ain't got the water, the milk or the eggs, you're trying to do something you can't. In combining music with the word, from the voice on down, you follow the template he laid out. His rapping is rhythmic. Some of it's songs. It's punchy, and all those qualities are still used today."

Pop & Hiss will have more on Gil Scott-Heron's legacy, and The Times will have a full obituary in Sunday's paper.


Live review: Gil Scott-Heron at the El Rey

A first listen to Gil Scott-Heron's "I'm New Here"

Album review: Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx's "We're New Here"

Gil Scott-Heron receives Twitter tributes from Eminem, Snoop Dogg and more

-- Randall Roberts



Comments () | Archives (37)

so long Gil...this whitey loved "winter in america","we almost lost detroit" "whitey on the moon" and all the rest....we'll all see you soon

Seeing Gil Scott-Heron a number of years ago at Biddy Mulligans in Chicago and then devouring the fine New Yorker piece of last summer, it brings me great sorrow to hear of his passing. His unique offerings with a street-style poetry and mental net for the bigger picture will live on. God bless GS-H.

Rest in Paradise Mr. Gil Scott Heron. You are an incredible genius and inspiration to a global genre of music loved by generations! You are loved and will be greatly missed. May you rest in a better place surrounded by love, humanity, creativity, justice, poetry, music, fairness and compassion, reflection, egalitarianism, sophistication. You finally escaped America for good--God Bless!

Well, that's a damned shame. I would like to say I hope he was happy later in life, but if was still smoking cocaine I guess he was still trying to numb whatever pain was afflicting him.

At a time when most popular R&B and rap had devolved into dance music -- all shake, no sizzle -- Scott-Heron, a ground-floor griot, continued to speak truth to power. He will be missed.

Wow. Rest in peace brother; you were a true prophet.

We don't die , we fly high into the sky resite our poetry like true legends do Gil Scott-Heron indeed he be a true legend. His lyerics historic... You won't be remembered for your flaws, that's not important. You will be remembered as a legend, as a poet... R.I.P Gil Scot-Heron.

Later big guy. You touched souls.

Back when Eisenhower was the President,
 golf courses was where most of his time was spent. 
So I never really listened to what the President said,
 because in general I believed that the General was politically dead.
 But he always seemed to know when the muscles were about to be flexed,
 because I remember him saying something, mumbling something about a Military Industrial Complex.

Americans no longer fight to keep their shores safe,
 just to keep the jobs going in the arms making workplace.
 Then they pretend to be gripped by some sort of political reflex,
 but all they're doing is paying dues to the Military Industrial Complex. The Military and the Monetary,
 get together whenever they think its necessary. They turn our brothers and sisters into mercenaries, they are turning the planet into a cemetery.

Bless Gil Scott-Heron for being one of the first major entertainers to join the BDS movement and not perform in Israel. It's his sensitivity to others that allowed him to feel the pain inflicted on Palestinians for more than 50 years.

His leadership probably influenced others to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel. Roger Waters from Pink Floyd,Santana, Elvis Costello, the Pixies, and many other performers and writers have refused to perform in Israel as a protest. Gil was one of the first.

Wow such a sad ending to a great life force.... I've learned so much from his music . I wish things could have been different for him! I hope that there is peace for him even though it seems he could not find it in this life. I pray that he finds peace in the after life! His soul was so unique yet vulnerable I see, and now I'm sad! :^(

He was a true artist with a sad life (but he didn't complain). I saw him at the Roxy during one of his comebacks.

what a gift to the world he was and is.....a genius to be sorely missed but eternally celebrated.....RIP you beautiful soul.....

RIP my brother, you inspirited many with your message. "Winter in America" and "What's the Word" my two all time favorites. Energy never dies, it only transmute into a high vibration. Peace and Blessings

Gil was clearly one of the under-appreciated founding fathers of hip-hop...hopefully he will receive posthumously some of the recognition he so richly deserved.

As a Walter Mitty variety college student pursuing a journalism degree in the 1960's, I wandered into Washington Square where NYU resides to catch a set by Gil-Scott Heron. He had an album out at the time named Gorilla. Besides organizing a really good jazz band and being a mesmerizer of thought as well, I think he was a futurist, looking forward and back . The download sites all have the cut Winter in America. If you decide to download it at a cost of 99cents or slightly more because they upped it, you will hear in my opinion a number that must have been written more than 40 years ago, but in a surreal way is a description that has not exited.

The world's greatest Rap pioneer has left the stage and will never be forgotten!

Yes the Revoultion will not be televised in Amerika! because it is to late. the dark force has taken over the homeland! Adios R.I.P. America your myth was greater than your reality.

Lesson for everyone: Don't do crack and hard drugs....just don't. He looks like he's 90 years old. I grew up listening to his music, he's my age, and he looks so much older. I always thought he was old than me. Rest in peace.

I'm truly saddened to learn of GSH's passing. His incredible insights spoke across racial lines. Injustice is injustice, after all, isn't it -- and it's not hard to understand.

"The Revolution will not be brought to you by White Lighting, a White Tornado, or white people.". LOL! Besides a talented lyricist, he was damn funny.

A Crying Shame, Another Great Has To Make Their Transition

All the best to you Gil as you have made your transition to join the ancestors in the eternal spiritual realm.

And to your family & love ones, may your spirit continue to provide them with guidance & protection.


Listen to Lovely Day. Thas gutbucket BLUES baby:

" The Vulture" is a great novel by Gil Scott-Heron. Published around 1973-74. You can find it. Great read.

this guy was waited down by all the people who are standing on his shoulders. genius sometimes is overused but not in Gils Case. what a monster. they say it is a thin line between genius and insanity and he just couldn't leave that stuff alone. RIP Poet Laureante of my community.

1 2 | »


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Recent Posts

Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: