*The power of the late great Gil Scott Heron’s way with words is hard to ignore. His poetic ability makes this much anticipated book a joy to read. It not only engages, but it also educates. If it were just a biography tracing Heron’s 1950’s Southern roots, it would satisfy. But, it goes beyond a personal history to trace a national history in the story of Stevie Wonder’s successful campaign to have slain Civil Rights leader Dr Martin Luther King’s birthday declared a National Holiday.
From candid tales of his well-respected grandparents and parents, with their flair for sports, advocacy for academia or quiet personalities, to his relationships with his own children, we get a great insight into Heron’s influences. Aside from familial role models, iconic musicians such as Wonder made a huge impact on Heron’s world. It is fascinating to read about Heron’s longstanding friendship with Wonder or his brief encounters with a young Bob Marley and Michael Jackson while on tour.
There are many exciting tales from the road once Heron, who was awarded a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award this year, had made it big as a performance poet/musician signed to Arista Records, and as an author of The Vulture. But, his early years at university are equally noteworthy demonstrating musical prowess, a social conscience, and his defiant rallying voice in student politics at Pennslyvania’s Lincoln University.
Much lauded, cool and laid back, Heron’s determination and conviction to follow his dream of becoming a writer is inspiring. A few beautiful pictures add extra character to this already charismatic book. A world of jazz, race, and activism, it details how dreams became reality. The revolution may not be televised but I’m glad it is recorded.
The Last Holiday – A Memoir by Gil Scott Heron, priced £20 is out now published by Canongate Books.
The UK Corner covers urban entertainment from a British perspective and is written by Fiona McKinson ©. She is a freelance journalist and creative writer based in London. Contact her. Visit her blog for more: http://thetalentshow.co.uk/theukcorner/