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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)

Gil Scott Heron was one of america best writers and poets,not only did he lay the framework for hip hop and rap,but he spoke to the aspirations of a better america,both in the context of african americans and all people of color,he accurately critiqued the hypocrisy of watergate and J Edgar Hoover and partisan politics.His songs "The Bottle and "Angel Dust,were born of his own addictions and experiences.His words was his sword against all he saw as wrong,and finally,his song "Your daddy loves you",is one of the best songs and a comfort to divorced dad all over america.Today,the boomer generation has lost one of its great voices,the hip hop generation has lost a great influence and sadly,the kids of urban america ,wont know the joy of hearing gil scott herons voice live.sad day

I remember being in blissful flagrante delicto while listening to 'THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED"..brilliant..rip gsh

The Foodie Family : " We are the conscious conductors of the universe..." Journey #Mtume

The revolution will not make you five pounds lighter!

Just pulled out some old vinyl (yes, vinyl!) copies of Gil and have spent the afternoon listening - wow, brings back memories of the 60s and 70s. Rest in peace, brother. You will be missed, but your poetry and music will live on.

Gil Scott Heron's music and lyrics were not only politically poignant, but he was also capable of writing beautiful love songs, as in "When You Are Who You Are," and sweet poetry, as in "I Think I'll Call It Morning."
In one of his more recent pieces he wrote about a battle he was having with the devil. Ironically, for a man who wrote about the destruction substance abuse brought to the inner city, as in "The Bottle," Gil was a victim of those demons.

Safe journey home brother, we'll shed tears but will always have your music and the memories.

Black don't crack, unless you smoke crack!

Rest in Peace, Gil. An insightful poet, artist, and musician. Thank you.

Get the "Best of Gil" CD i must have listened to it a hundred times Thanks for the words and inspiration you will be missed!

so SAD to hear this. Rest in Peace Brother GIL, you will be sorely missed. am BLESSED to have seen and met you several times. Our Crazy world has lost a GREAT TEACHER....

"They shot him down, to save his country. They shot him down, to save his country. This can't be real."

"Junky walking through the twilight, I'm on my way home."

"Seems the whole world must be mad. Must be mad.

"A rat done bit my Sister Nel, and Whitey's on the moon. Her face and hands began to swell, and Whitey's on the moon."

I saw Mr. Herron last April at a concert here in Minneapolis.,his "spirit" now is just as real as then. It will always remain with me and within me.Thank for this space and time to express my feelings for one of my heroes. Ashaa! Rosa Bogar

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