Sunday, June 5, 2011

Remembering Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron died May 27th, just 62 years old.

I grew up on his music, his poetry, his philosophy: "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," "The Bottle," "Winter in America," "We Almost Lost Detroit," "Pieces of a Man," "Whitey on the Moon," "Home is Where the Hatred Is," "Johannesburg."

I saw him only once, decades ago-- with Brian Jackson, at Brandeis University-- but the memory after all these years is like a ruby, red hot and burning in the night.

Scott-Heron never got his full due, but his influence is deeper than many realize and will--here's a prediction from Lobster & Canary-- continue to grow.

He called himself a "bluesologist." He was a cousin to the Beats, an uncle to the first rappers, a great-uncle to later hip-hop artists. Listen for his influence in work by Mos Def, Kwalib Tweli, Public Enemy, Erykah Badu, Arrested Development, Meshell Ndegeocello, The Roots, Common, Ludacris, Kanye West...too many to list.

Scott-Heron wrestled mightily, like Jacob at Peniel, with addiction and its collateral damage for many years, yet continued to produce art and was in the midst of a comeback with last year's
album I'm New Here.

He had regained his power. This is "Me and the Devil" from I'm New Here:

As Lobster & Canary mourns his passing, we think of his tribute to Billie Holiday and John Coltrane, and imagine him making music with them in some other place:

"Ever feel kinda down and out,
Don't know just what to do?


Ever feel that somehow, somewhere,
You lost your way?

And if you don't get a help quick,
You won't make it through the day?

Or could you call on Lady Day?
Or could you call on John Coltrane?

Now, they'll wash your troubles, your troubles,
Your troubles, your troubles

Click here and here for more on Scott-Heron.

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