Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

SCOTT-HERON, Gil

(b 1 April 1949, Chicago; d 27 May 2011) Attended Lincoln and Johns Hopkins U, MA '72; published novels The Vulture and The Nigger Factory. He began collaborating with Brian Robert Jackson on music so as to get a message across, half-spoken, half-sung, and found a substantial cult audience. Small Talk At 125th Street And Lenox '72 was a mostly verbal rendition of his book of poems, followed by Free Will, Pieces Of A Man, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised '72-5 (latter title track covered by LaBelle), all on Flying Dutchman; Winter In America '75 on StrataEast; he was then an early and successful signing to the new Arista label: The First Minute Of A New Day and From South Africa To South Carolina '75, It's Your World '76, Bridges '77, Secrets and The Mind Of Gil Scott-Heron '78, 1980 and Real Eyes '80, Reflections '81, Moving Target '82.

He called himself a bluesologist, but made it clear that jazz was his inspiration, and tried to present their heritage to his African-American audiience. He fell prey to addictions he had preached against, but came back with Spirits '94 on Mother, and some painfully candid lyrics. Called the Godfather of Rap, he said with humour undimmed, 'I hope there's a godmother, 'cos I want to talk to her about these kids.'

I'm New Here 2010 was his last product, and back on form. One fan wrote, "His two 2010 SummerStage concerts, at Marcus Garvey and Central Parks, were among the best shows of the season. He appeared to have renewed health and his audience interaction was filled hope and optimism (along with the usual witty cynicism and biting irony)." There was a profile in the New Yorker in August, and then he was gone. He may not have hit the commercial big time, but his influence was deep, and the tribute albums have already started: jazz singer Giacomo Gates's The Revolution Will Be Jazz: The Songs of Gil Scott-Heron was released in July 2011; Marc Myers wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Gates "fully grasps Mr. Scott-Heron's soulful essence and hope-laced lyrics."