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In Memory of Gil Scott-Heron

I just found out that Gil Scott-Heron passed away last Friday, at the age of 62. That’s really too bad. A poet and pioneer of hip hop, Scott-Heron was also the originator of the phrase “the revolution will not be televised,” in the song of the same name, which appeared on his classic album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox:

Scott-Heron also wrote and performed the brilliant “Comment No. 1” (also from Small Talk), which Kanye West sampled for “Lost in the World” and “Who Will Survive in America,” the final tracks on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2011):

(I really admired how West let Scott-Heron conclude the album like that.) West also sampled Scott-Heron (and his frequent collaborator Brian Jackson) on a collaboration with Common, “My Way Home”:

Scott-Heron remained a poet all his life, but the mid-70s onward saw him become more of a musician (due to meeting and working with Brian Jackson):

Scott-Heron’s career tapered off in the early 80s, and later years saw him battling drug addiction, prison terms, and living with HIV. Despite those obstacles, however, he managed to release a new album just last year: I’m New Here, which featured new work as well as covers of songs by Brook Benton:

Robert Johnson:

…and Bill Callahan (!):

And, bringing things full circle, he included Kanye West samples:

Rest in peace, sir, and thanks for your work.

  • A. D. Jameson is the author of five books, most recently I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING: STAR WARS AND THE TRIUMPH OF GEEK CULTURE and CINEMAPS: AN ATLAS OF 35 GREAT MOVIES (with artist Andrew DeGraff). Last May, he received his Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the Program for Writers at UIC.

7 thoughts on “In Memory of Gil Scott-Heron

    1. Yeah, it’s instantly recognizable, isn’t it? The first time I listened to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and those last two tracks came on, I thought—whoa…I’ve heard this guy before… Took me a little while (and some Googling) to place it, though. Quite a shame he passed away so soon after that—though at least he saw some renewed interest in his work, largely due to Mr. West…

  1. Thank you so much for this. Some great stuff here. The I’m New Here video is incredible. Couldn’t stop crying – it’s just a beautiful thing.

    1. Thanks! I really like that video, too. I’ll confess that I approached that album with some dread, but I needn’t have worried. GSH remained a master till the end.

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