Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron has Passed

A voice that had something to say went silent yesterday. Gil Scott-Heron voiced emotions & ideas that went above and beyond the times that he spoke them. Listen to his work and it is evident that it remains on point & relevant even though the names (Nixon, Agnew & Regan) have slipped into history. There is timelessness found in his work. Did his work make people comfortable? No. Did it make people think? Always. Mark Twain / Samuel Clemons once said about writing, “A writer’s job is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.” Gil Scott-Heron did just that. You may not have agreed with what he had to say but words he spoke had an edge and an honesty that refused to be ignored.

Here is what Gil Scott-Heron’s website tells you about him: - “Gil Scott-Heron (born April 1, 1949) is an American poet, musician, and author known primarily for his late 1960s and early 1970s work as a spoken word soul performer and his collaborative work with musician Brian Jackson. His collaborative efforts with Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues and soul music, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles by Scott-Heron. The music of these albums, most notably Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970s, influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul. Scott-Heron’s recording work is often associated with black militant activism and has received much critical acclaim for one of his most well-known compositions “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. On his influence, Allmusic wrote “Scott-Heron’s unique proto-rap style influenced a generation of hip-hop artists”.”

Here are some examples of his work from Boing Boing, “In Memoriam: Gil Scott-Heron, ‘The People’s Poet’”:

Once I read the Twitter feed this AM that Scott-Heron had passed I, admittedly, had to tap into the deep recesses of my memory banks. I first became aware of his work with, “Whitey on the Moon.” I was a little too young for, “The Revolution will Not be Televised”, and I was just a kid with the poignant, “B-Movie” was birthed. Gil Scott-Heron most recent album, “I’m New Here,” was his first album in 16 years and was released in February of 2010.

Here is a great article by Alan Wilkinson from the New Yorker entitled, “New York is Killing Me”:

Dependency can blind. Classically someone who is addicted does not see it. They believe, whole heartedly, that the next high will achieve some new level of consciousness (for artistic or spiritual awareness), relieve the pain that they feel (real or conjured) or they simply have the taste for oblivion. The worst part is that while they perceive it to be a victimless crime the people who pay the cost are those closest to them; their closest family members, their children, their significant other. The individual can not see this price paid in full by their loved ones. It just does not register. Monique de Latour (his ex-girlfriend at the time from the New Yorker piece); when she says, “There is a very gentle person inside Gil,” she said, “but very remote. It’s the little boy who lived with his grandmother in Jackson. He used to say to me, ‘I wish you knew me before I was like this.’ ” By “this” he meant before his addiction to crack cocaine.

In the Wikipedia, my favorite second brain has a great quote from Fairfax New Zealand (February 2010) that reads, “Gil Scott-Heron released poems as songs, recorded songs that were based on his earliest poems and writings, wrote novels and became a hero to many for his music, activism and his anger. There is always the anger - an often beautiful, passionate anger. An often awkward anger. A very soulful anger. And often it is a very sad anger. But it is the pervasive mood, theme and feeling within his work - and around his work, hovering, piercing, occasionally weighing down; often lifting the work up, helping to place it in your face. And for all the preaching and warning signs in his work, the last two decades of Gil Scott-Heron's life to date have seen him succumb to the pressures and demons he has so often warned others about.”

My prayers go out to his family & loved ones at this time.

…Picture of Ms. Scott-Heron from Wikipedia

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