I’ve posted about Gil Scott-Heron before. His music was essential in helping shape my world view and how I approached issues of race in my writings. He impacted my “voice” as much as Ellison, Bradbury, Powers, Gaiman, and Landsdale. But music is like that for me. It works for me on a level that writing seldom does; leaves an indelible mark that I sometimes don’t recognize for years. In the case of brilliant Mr. Scott-Heron, it hit like lightning. It even inspired my story “Deacon Carter’s Last Dime,” as discussed on that aforementioned post.
Gil, for those who don’t know him, is the spiritual grandfather of Hip Hop. Originally a writer, it was his debut album, Small Talk at 125th and Lenox in 1970, that introduced the world to his most famous song: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”
I was dumbstruck and heartsick to hear that Gil died today.
He leaves behind a rich legacy and dynamic catalog of music that I can only hope will reach a new generation of fans with the news of his death. Sometimes an artists legacy outgrows the frail, mortal frame. And Gil was mortal. He had struggled with substance abuse problems for the past decade. Recent interviews I’ve read did not portray him in the full flush of health. So while his passing is tragic, it is not unexpected.
For those of you unfamiliar with Gil’s music, I encourage you to seek it out. Create a Pandora station around him, find a few tracks on YouTube, or take a chance and pick up one of his albums blindly. There are a few compilations that serve quite well as introductions to a man who was uncompromising in his honesty and integrity.
I’ll leave you with a live recording of him singing about nuclear power in London in 1990. I present you with “We Almost Lost Detroit.”
Sleep well, Gil. You will be sorely missed. And thanks for sharing a part of the world that this Colorado cowboy might never have experienced otherwise.