Gil Scott-Heron R.I.PMay 28, 2011
The legends are falling fast.
I woke up this morning to the news that Gil Scott-Heron had died in New York at the age of 62. He was a poet, singer, musician and author, known for such tracks as The Bottle, The revolution Will Not Be Televised, Lady Day And John Coltrane and Pieces Of A Man. He’s often credited as the ‘Godfather of Rap’, telling stories about life on the streets that would not had been heard or seen on mainstream media. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised in particular criticized television and mass consumerism for an anesthetized nation, ensuring the experiences of the disaffected whether by race or other groups would not be heard. It’s a song I would say is just as relevant today in these austere times – X Factor, and other ‘reality’ shows, I’m talking about you. In his spoken word and music he was eloquent in his anger, but could also be tender and moving, with a great voice that was mellifluous with a hint of an edge. He was also a troubled man, fighting addictions and having repeated spells in jail. I do sometimes wonder if greatness can only be achieved through having troubled or difficult lives.
I was introduced to the music of Gil through one of my brothers. We would swap our music like trading cards, which made us very catholic in our tastes. The album was called Moving Target, released in 1982. It’s Jazz based and I found it very exciting. The back cover, for reasons I cannot explain, sent shivers down the spine. Look at it – that man meant business! It looks piddling here, but the impact is much bigger on 12 inches of vinyl album cover – trust me.
My mate Ola, whose ability to find quality gigs is unparalleled, managed to get tickets for Gil who was to play at The South Bank last year. The Icelandic volcanic ash put paid to that one, though, as we found out when we arrived in feverish anticipation. I had never seen him live and was gutted to find that Mother Nature had thwarted us in our mission. We went to a restaurant instead, so it was still a nice evening, but we were smarting at an opportunity lost. And now our chance has going forever. I’ll never see him live, but will continue to enjoy his music. Perhaps I’ll give his final album a listen, his first release in 15 years called I’m New Here, as well as dig into the old stuff. Here’s a video of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Thanks, YouTube. Thanks Gil Scott-Heron. Rest in peace, brother.