Gil Scott Heron via

By KCRW DJ Eric J Lawrence:

To hardcore music fans, the name Gil Scott-Heron is synonymous with poetic soul.

Even those who only know of him from his cutting track, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” would recognize him as one of the more fiery vocalists ever to record in the pop idiom.  But all should agree that he was a man beset by personal demons that nevertheless created among the most powerful, provocative and socially-conscious music of the past 40 years.  Sadly, poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron passed away Friday, May 27 at the age of 62.

Born in Chicago in 1949, and raised in the South, then the Bronx, Scott-Heron showed an aptitude for writing at an early age.  By 1970, he had published both a book of poetry and a novel, and released his debut album, Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, recorded live in a New York City nightclub and which opens with his signature song.  An auspicious beginning to be sure, but throughout the 70s, he recorded a series of successful albums that blended jazz, soul, funk and spoken word in an unforgettable fashion.  Songs such as “The Bottle,” “Whitey on the Moon,” “Winter in America,” and “Let Me See Your I.D” revealed an angry, but thoughtful young artist.

Many people consider his work during this period to have been a key influence on the development of rap, with his rhythmic recitations and tricky poetic lines setting the template for hip-hop artists to come.  But his presence in the jazz scene of the era is often overlooked, despite working with such key artists as Ron Carter, Hubert Laws, Bernard Purdie, longtime collaborator Brian Jackson and legendary producer Bob Thiele.

His recording productivity declined in the 80s and 90s, although he continued to tour.  However the turn of the millennium found Scott-Heron struggling with substance abuse, and he was sentenced to a series of prison terms for drug-possession charges throughout the decade.  But he resumed recording in 2010 with his first album in 16 years, I’m New Here, which received some of the best reviews of his career (including selection by KCRW’s own Mathieu Schreyer as one of the top 10 albums of the year).  Beloved by new generations of fans, the album was also remixed by Jamie xx of the cutting-edge UK band The XX, under the name, We’re New Here, giving Scott-Heron’s work a wholly contemporary spin.

With his absence the music community has lost a powerful voice, and he will be missed.  But his legacy is strong and his influence is long-reaching.  His revolution continues to be broadcast here at KCRW and across the globe.


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  • tribute to Gil Scott-Heron | heikewrites said:

    [...] Scott-Heron passed away aged 62 at a hospital in New York on Friday. From his 2010 album, here is  Gil Scott-Heron, I’m New [...]

  • Jazz Reviews said:

    This has been posted on a lot of internet websites. This is very sad but he left his legacy indeed. He influenced hip hop quite a bit.

    Jazz Website

  • Smitty Herron said:

    The following is an excerpt from "Music's Golden Frontier" , a book by Smitty Herron,.
    This excerpt focuses on Gil-Scott Herron

    Chapter‭ ‬22

    Don’t You Think It’s A Crime

    Speaking of vibes,‭ ‬how‭ ‘‬bout that‭ ‬Vic Montana.‭ ‬ooops…….gettin‭’ ‬too far ahead of myself……‭ ‬let me just back up a bit.‭
    As we enter‭ ‬1974,‭ ‬it just seems like that wintery,‭ ‬gloomy,‭ ‬humid,‭ ‬overcast attitude was‭ ‬prevailing throughout this great nation.‭ ‬Just kind of….‭ ‬………..‭ ‬ho hum…….Nixon’s in more trouble‭?‬……..‭ ‬…….ok…………..yawn………..‭ ‬another mild recession‭?‬………ok……….sigh………yawn…….
    If‭ ‬you look up the phrase‭ “‬calm before the storm‭”‬……you might get a description of late January,‭ ‬1974.‭ ‬On the pop charts,‭ ‬you had songs like,‭ ‬maybe,‭ ‬ Laughter In The Rain‭ (‬wow…how appropriate is that‭?) ‬by‭ ‬Neil Sedaka,‭ ‬who was making his comeback.‭ ‬That is a great song.‭ ‬In fact,‭ ‬another one of my own personal all-time favorites.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬in situations like those we were about to encounter,‭ ‬the‭ ‬real charts are in the people’s hearts.‭
    Now,‭ ‬I’ll try not to spend too much time on this,‭ ‬because it should be drilled in your head by now.‭ ‬Gil Scott-Heron’s release of‭ ‬The Bottle in early February of‭ ‘‬74‭ ‬immediately became the most requested song in these newfangled dance clubs,‭ ‬usually located below street level in the larger cities like New York City,‭ ‬Paris,‭ ‬and London.‭ ‬They had begun to call‭ ‬some of them discoteches around this time,‭ ‬but no one yet was using the term‭ “‬disco‭”‬,‭ ‬or‭ “‬disco music‭”‬.‭ ‬But I,‭ ‬Smitty,‭ ‬declare this the official start of the attitude,‭ ‬lifestyle,‭ ‬music of the disco era.‭ ‬Remember,‭ ‬that the‭ ‬beginning,‭ ‬or‭ ‬roots,‭ ‬were a few years ago,‭ ‬but this is the official start.‭
    Folks,‭ ‬this is the only song that I have witnessed a person actually passing out while they were dancing to it.‭ ‬Another guy at the party threw some cold water on her immediately,‭ ‬and,‭ ‬thank god,‭ ‬she responded,‭ ‬sorta crawled her way back up to her feet,‭ ‬to stumble toward the couch…..and I swear,‭ ‬she was‭ ‬still‭ ‬kinda movin‭’ ‬to the beat,‭ ‬even then.‭ ‬This particular song release could not have better timing.‭ ‬And the opening lyrics,‭ ‬to anyone who would be hearing it for the first‭ ‬time‭ (‬that’s what the disco is all about‭)‬,‭ ‬……..those lyrics seemed kind of‭ ‬forbidden.‭ ‬The initial lines use the phrase…‭ “‬you see that black boy over there‭”‬…….‭ ‬Now,‭ ‬just picture someone in France,‭ ‬maybe a Paris native,‭ ‬who understands English a‭ ‬little,‭ ‬but not‭ ‬too much,‭ ‬hearing this,‭ ‬when she goes to some new nightclub.
    And the reason she loves to go to this club is because they are constantly playing‭ ‬new,‭ ‬good dance music.‭ ‬Thinks nothin‭’ ‬of it.‭ ‬Then all of sudden she hears an awesome beat,‭ ‬then someone singin‭’‬…‭”‬you see that black boy over there…‭”‬ That would no doubt get her attention.‭ ‬She’ll think to herself…..‭ ‬a black what‭?‬…that’s not right,‭ ‬is it‭? ‬…….‭ ‬but I guess it’s ok…….sure is a good song to dance to……‭ ‬I have‭ ‬no‭ ‬doubt in my mind that this was a primary ingredient that made this the most requested song in these new clubs that had begun sprouting up,‭ ‬especially internationally.‭ ‬I still wonder,‭ ‬to this day,‭ ‬if Gil knew‭ ‬exactly‭ ‬what he was doing with that.‭ ‬And if he expected that kind of response to it.‭ ‬Another amazing‭ ‬landmark composition.

  • cjh said:

    Raja, winner of Rupaul's Drag Race, single just dropped and when you buy on itunes you get a free remix by automatic panic!! e-mail

  • Listen: A Tribute to Gil Scott Heron from DJ Mathieu Schreyer | KCRW Music Blog said:

    [...] Friday nights/Saturday morning from midnight to 3am. This week’s show was devoted entirely to Gil Scott Heron, the poet and songwriter many have called the forefather of rap and much, much [...]

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