Life is like a circle, you end up where you started
If you end up where you started, ain’t no other side
Yeah, but if life is like a curtain then I’m 90% certain
I’m looking through at something…
Yes, I’m always touching something on the other side…
*American poet, author, musician and cultural icon, Gil Scott-Heron, made his transition on Friday, May 27, 2011. He left this world at 62 years of age. A spoken word artist, he was best known for his work in the 1970s and 1980s, after forming the Black and Blues Band in collaboration with pianist Brian Jackson. The two fused the music of jazz, blues and soul music into their own unique sound.
Gil Scott-Heron was a social activist and voice for the underprivileged throughout the world. To many he was an unsung hero who spoke out against injustice and attributed his music, anger and activism toward social causes. Associated with the activism of the black militants, Scott-Heron gained notoriety for his poetic composition “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” In many of his songs, Scott-Heron heralded the political and social issues affecting the poorer echelon of America. Through the song “Billy Green is Dead,” he echoed the need for inner city communities to address the plight of their neighbors and become involved in issues that would free them from oppression. It is said that Scott-Heron’s poetic and vocal style (recorded in the early 1970s) engendered in songs like “Winter in America,” and “Pieces of A Man,” fostered the neo-soul and hip hop music genres that were to follow. The Grandfather of the spoken word, Gil often encouraged modern day rappers to study music and take on relevant issues that brought enlightenment to their communities.
Gil’s last album entitled “I’m New Here,” was released in 2010 after a 16 year hiatus between recordings.
Chicago born, Scott-Heron spent much of his early childhood in Tennessee with his grandmother after his parents divorced. After his grandmother’s death, he lived with his mother in the Bronx, New York. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, transferring to the Fieldston School where he won a full scholarship. He went on to attend Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Later attending Johns Hopkins University, Gil earned a Masters in Creative Writing. Heron wrote “The Vulture” which was well received and another novel entitled “The Nigger Factory.”
Scott-Heron’s first recording “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox” was in line with Scott-Heron’s social concerns. The album addressed the ignorance of the white middle class concerning the plight of the inner cities, consumerism, and the hypocrisy of some black militants. Over the years, Gil worked with musical artists such as Eddie Knowles, Ron Carter, Charlie Saunders, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Ron Holloway, Burt Jones and Hubert Laws. He released recordings such as Midnight Band: The First Minutes of a New Day; It’s Your World; New York Is Killing Me; Lady Day and John Coltrane; Me And The Devil; The Bottle; Home is Where the Hatred Is; Angel Dust; Work For Peace; Message to the Messengers; Save the Children and Free Will, et al.
Mr. Scott-Heron was a man who lived life with great passion, oft-times feeling things too deeply. Occasionally, he tried to allay his pain by resorting to self-destructive behavior which resulted in drug use. This led to his incarceration within the New York State Penal System.
Upon returning from a European trip, Gil Scott-Heron fell ill. He died while at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City. The exact cause of death is yet to be determined.
He is survived by his wife Brenda and his daughter Gia.
Gil left a volume of work for the world to treasure. However, it seems the time came for Gil to pull aside the curtain. He looked through at something and in doing so, reached out and touched the other side.
Deardra Shuler is a well published journalist who has profiled celebrities and written about people of note for many years. In addition to her column at EURweb.com, she is the host of her radio show “Topically Yours” on BlakeRadio.com and has shows featured on NPR via Initiative Radio. Ms. Shuler is featured in several papers. Her international column in Sweden,”Music Pastures” is available at http://soulinterviews.com. Interested parties can acquire info regarding Deardra through Writspirit.com, tagged.com, facebook and google.