• Denholm Hewlett

[Music/Poetry] Gil Scott Heron (1949 - 2011)

The revolutionary American bluesologist; A visionary musical prophet whose songs spoke for all humanity. The original jazz and soul street poet, proto rap-pioneer, acclaimed author, civil-rights activist and charismatic musical teacher Gil Scott-Heron foreshadowed and shaped the sound of music today.

Gil Scott Heron has been opening eyes, minds and souls for over forty years through the power of his poetry, songs and novels, with over twenty albums to his name and an immortal artistic legacy and international following. Gil was a leading vessel for "message music", spreading important knowledge, insights and socio-political information through the power of musicianship. He is truly one of the greatest intellectual minds and artists of his generation.

The classic "The Revolution will not be televised" (1970), one of Gil's earliest and most influential proto-rap protest songs, would retroactively cement his status as the godfather of the rap music medium. He was a master teacher and a musical healer, his classic spoken-word socio-political songs, recorded 40 years ago, are still as profoundly striking and relevant than ever in 2020.

~ Gil discussing the meaning behind his most iconic song 30 years later ~

Gil was a self described Bluesologist, which he used to define as "a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues". He set out to write some great music, write some great books, write some good poems, to heal and to inform, and he managed to succeed on all fronts. Gil was a prolific scholar and the knowledge bestowed in his music is his enduring legacy and power.

This song speaks on how black history and culture has been systemically white-washed and denigrated by colonial European and American societies for generations ~ "his version ain't mine, that's why they call it His-Story".

When Gil was 21 years old, he published his first volume of beat-poetry and his debut novel, The Vulture, which he soon followed up with his spoken-word live album, A New Black Poet: Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (1970), which was described as "a volcanic upheaval of intellectualism and social critique".

All of the politically charged messages in Gil's songwriting and poetry are still as profoundly relevant today as when they were first written. Gil was committed to digging the rhythms of street life, examining hard facts about the human condition that most would rather forget, crafting wickedly satirical but essential social insights for Black America and people around the world.

The young maverick poet, jazz pianist, singer-songwriter masterfully captured all of the harsh realities, the trials and tribulations of the Black American underclass living in the "land of the free", he composed striking and timeless stories on the human condition and the social-political injustices of the world.

Gil's first studio album, Pieces of a Man (1971), recorded when he was only 22 years old, is one of the most culturally significant and acclaimed jazz-blues albums in history, this debut record, along with "Winter in America" (1974) are widely considered as landmark jazz classics of unparalleled importance which are "beyond categorisation or social critique". His no-nonsense street poetry would inspired a whole generation of intelligent and socially conscious rappers, while his undeniably engaging songwriting skills cemented his place in the R&B charts later into his career.

Gil Scott Heron is best known for his pioneering mixture of political, protest and spoken-word beat poetry combined with immersive musical fusions of jazz, blues, funk and soul instrumentation. From the start of his career, Gil collaborated extensively with musician Brian Jackson throughout the 1970's and 1980's, this iconic partnership resulted in some of the most ingenious and thought-provoking jazz-funk fusion albums of all time.

Gil's life philosophy illuminated the power of human affection, artistic responsibility and political awareness. He was a true literary scholar with an unparalleled skill and caliber. A truly gifted, soulful genius with an immense wisdom, talent and sensitivity who battled against demons his entire life.

After years of absence, Gil released Spirits (1994), in order to deliver some important knowledge to his lineage, the next generation of street poets.

Gil's final record, I'm New Here (2010), was recorded 16 years after Spirits, following a difficult period of personal turbulence and legal issues with addiction. Gil would tragically pass away one year later, at age 62.

God bless Gil Scott Heron. His immortal memory and profound legacy laid the groundwork for a whole generation of artists, including Yasiin Bey, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt and Talib Kweli. Chuck D from Public Enemy has hailed Gil as “the manifestation of the modern word”.

~ Check out "BLACK WAX - A Gil Scott Heron Live Documentary" & "Who is Gil Scott Heron?" Short Documentary (Essential Viewing) ~

(Check a selection of Gil's music and poetry below):

~ Psychic Garden