KCRW DJ Mathieu Schreyer hosts a weekly show 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 more.
Read more about Mathieu’s reaction to his passing and hear the show in full here.
On Friday the 27th of May 2011, Gil Scott Heron left us.
The news left me stunned.
The amazing thing about discovering music 25 years after its original release is that chances are you’ll have a few albums to discover! I not only had “The Revolution Will Not be Televised” but a dozen of albums which he had recorded since 1970. Amazing music, great lyrics, always great musicians and a perfect partner in Brian Jackson. I recommend them all to you, if you do not already have them. I have been an unconditional fan of his since then and his latest album “I’m New Here” was my personal favorite release of 2010.
As I do every week, my show was ready by midday Friday (I’m on Friday from midnight to 3am) and I had a gang of new music to share on my program. I logged on Twitter to start promoting the show for the evening when i saw a tweet from Taylor McFerrin saying “Rest in peace gil scott heron ” maaaaaaannnnn
I couldn’t believe it, I was stunned.
As he sang “……this can’t be real…. ” I just couldn’t believe it.
And I knew with Twitter that sometimes people say stuff that isn’t true (cause it must be fun I guess) …. so I went on Google and there were a couple of links up already….it was true ….that was definitely the one time I wish it hadn’t been…
But, if you knew of Gil, you knew of his demons and struggles and that eventually it would catch up with him. And it did .
I texted my brother and called Tom Schnabel, who had met him on a couple of occasions at KCRW. I asked Tom what he thought about the idea of doing a 3-hour long show for Gil and he said to me ” of course its appropriate”. I actually wanted Tom to join me but it was too late for him.
I started thinking about all the songs I loved of his and the albums and that Black Wax DVD he did in the 80′s and the couple of books.
I put on the “Winter in America” album and listened to a few songs. I reached out to both Mark Maxwell and Carlos Nino – both great DJs, good friends, and radio hosts at KPFK . I have known both of them for almost 15 years now and Max is one of my mentors.
I knew we were all huge fans. Carlos wanted to join us but was DJing in Hollywood with Cut Chemist. Max came through and helped me put the tribute together.
It was loose in the studio. It felt like part celebration, part mourning. We got so caught up in one song, I realized we had been off the air for a minute — unintentionally we gave him a minute of silence. I think he deserves many more.
The tribute came together in the moment. I only knew I wanted to start with “Brother“, the opening track from his first album “Small Talk at 125th and Lennox,” and a live version of “The Revolution Will Not be Televised” over percussions.
In the Black Wax documentary, there is a speech Gil does at his show where he talk about when he first arrived in New York from Tennessee and how he was really looking forward to checking out the blues scene in New York. Where he was from, that’s what was happening. It was the blues!! So he stopped one guy in Harlem asked him, ” hey man, where can I find the blues ?” and the guy replied “you ain’t got to look for the blues. You can just stand here, it will find you!”
I always loved that story…
This coming Wednesday night, Carlos Nino and I will be hosting a celebration at Zanzibar in Santa Monica. Come see us and share your favorite Gil Scott Heron song. Everyone can come up and play their favorite song (both vinyl and cd’s) and repeats are welcome.
Hope you enjoy the tribute show. I personally can’t stop thinking about the songs I didn’t get to play.