Passings: Gil Scott-Heron, Socially Conscious Man of Music

A tribute article to Gil Scott Heron

Life is like a circle, you end up
where you started

If you end up where you started,
ain’t no other side

Yeah, but if life is like a curtain
than I’m 90% certain

I’m looking through at something…

Yes, I’m always touching something on
the other side…

                ~Gil Scott-Heron

American poet, author,
musician and cultural icon, Gil Scott-Heron, made his transition on Friday, May
27, 2011.  He left this world at 62 years
of age.  A spoken word artist, he was
best known for his work in the 1970s and 1980s, after forming the Black and
Blues Band in collaboration with pianist Brian Jackson.  The two fused the music of jazz, blues and
soul into their own unique sound.

Gil Scott-Heron was a
social activist and voice for the underprivileged throughout the world.  To many he was an unsung hero who spoke out
against injustice and attributed his music, anger and activism toward social
causes. A
ssociated with the activism of the Black militants,
Scott-Heron gained notoriety for his poetic composition “The Revolution Will Not Be

In many of his songs, Scott-Heron heralded the political and social issues affecting
the poorer echelon of America.  Through the
song “Billy Green is Dead,” he echoed the need for inner city communities to
address the plight of their neighbors and become involved in issues that would
free them from oppression. It is said that Scott-Heron’s poetic and vocal style –recorded
in the early 1970s– engendered in songs like “Winter in America,” and “Pieces
of A Man,” fostered the neo-soul and hip hop music genres that were to follow.

The Grandfather of the spoken word, Scott-Heron often
encouraged modern day rappers to study music and take on relevant issues that
brought enlightenment to their communities.
His last album entitled
“I’m New Here,” was released in 2010 after a 16 year hiatus between recordings.

Chicago born, Scott-Heron spent much of his early
childhood in Tennessee with his grandmother after his parents divorced. After his grandmother’s death, he lived with
his mother in the Bronx, New York. He
attended DeWitt Clinton High School, transferring to the Fieldston School where
he won a full scholarship.  He went on to
attend Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Later attending Johns Hopkins University, Scott-Heron earned a Masters i
n Creative Writing. Heron wrote “The Vulture” which was well
received and another novel entitled “The Nigger Factory.”

Scott-Heron’s first recording “Small Talk
at 125th and Lenox” was in line with his social concerns. The
album addressed the ignorance of the White middle class concerning the plight
of the inner cities, consumerism, and the hypocrisy of some Black
militants. Over the years, Scott-Heron worked
with musical artists such as Eddie Knowles, Ron Carter, Charlie Saunders,
Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Ron Holloway, Burt Jones and Hubert Laws.  He released recordings such as Midnight Band:
The First Minutes of a New Day; It’s Your World; New York Is Killing Me; Lady
Day and John Coltrane; Me And The Devil; The Bottle; Home is Where the Hatred
Is; Angel Dust; Work For Peace; Message to the Messengers; Save the Children
and Free Will, and; many others.

Scott-Heron was a man who lived life with
great passion, oft-times feeling things too deeply. Occasionally, he tried to allay his pain by
resorting to self-destructive behavior which resulted in drug use. This led to his incarceration within the New
York State Penal System.

Upon returning from a European trip,
Gil Scott-Heron fell ill.  He died while
at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City. 
The exact cause of death is yet to be determined. 

He is survived by his wife Brenda
and his daughter Gia. 

Scott-Heron left a volume of work for the
world to treasure.  However, it seems the
time came for Gil Scott-Heron to pull aside the curtain. He looked through at something and in doing so, reached out and touched
the other side.


“Speaking Truth To Empower.”


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