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Gil Scott-Heron, RIP


That tremor you felt pass through the universe today? That is, if you’re sensitive enough to be aligned that way. That tremor was called Gil Scott-Heron, RIP. The phenomenally talented singer, musician, poet, activist who in no small part inspired rap with his poetry-set-to-fine-jazz style, passed away to day at the age of only 62, the victim of his own struggles with, freedom from, and final, disastrous return to drug use.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Gil Scott-Heron’s best known and often riffed on/sampled/stolen masterpiece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” set the music scene  on an edge, with it’s adroit pairing of muscular jazz/funk and Gil’s lyrics, that both championed and satirized the then-current Protest Movement, as well as the society in which everybody lived. In recent years, it’s been quoted/sampled/stolen by more slam poets than early DJs lifting Funkadelic bass-lines.

Enjoying the height of his popularity in the mid-1970s, Gil Scott-Heron became very well known through another of his songs “We Almost Lost Detroit”, that appeared on the 1980 Anti-nuke protest concert/album No Nukes. Check out the video here:

Ironically, or maybe portentiously, given his later tragic drug problems, another powerful track was the anti-drug song Angel Dust. Check that video out here:

Everyone from Chuck D. to Common to a thousand rappers, political MCs and spoken-word artists owe a huge debt of ancestry to Gil Scott-Heron, who laid down thiose roads, in collaboration with musician Brian Jackson who brought a solid musical base of Blues, Rhythm & Blues, Soul Music and Funk to support Scott-Heron’s nimble, powerful words. You can’t listen to “Revolution” or pieces like “Winter in America,” “Tuskeegee 626”  and not see how so many rappers and poets have walked down those same roads without realizing someone had to build it for them. That they are walking in the footprints of a giant. Ironically, in at least one quote regarding the subject, Scott-Heron quipped that he didn’t know if he  “could take the blame for that.”

But he certainly informed generations of political poets with his spare and sharp social and political commentary. Check out this video of the classic “Winter In America” performed live in the U.K. in 1990:

It was heart-breaking to see Gil Scott-Heron struggling with addiction to crack cocaine during the early years of this century, watching him go in and out of jails and rehab, and waiting for the morgue to be next. In recent years, it seemed Gil had beaten his addiction and was making music again. Things looked promising. And now this. Now this. Though there has been no autopsy, and Scott-Heron had returned from a tour recently feeling ill, there is still great concern that it was drugs that took their toll, directly or in the cost to his own body and health from years of chronic abuse. Gil Scott-Heron leaves behind some 15 studio and 9 live albums, various compilations and a huge, wide, pervasive influence in rap, hip-hop and poetry to this day.

And you know what? That’s not nearly enough to make up for the loss of the man. Gil Scott-Heron, dead. There are barely the words to even conceive of the loss.

May 27, 2011, Gil-Scott-Heron, RIP. May you find a peaceful Heaven that makes sense to you.

Iraqi Poet Slain

Filed under: Poetry News,World — Tags: , , , , , , , — Positronic Dave @ 11:30 am May 22, 2010

News of an Iraqi poet slain over a poem, sends a chill up the spine of every writer living in a country where

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