Written by [col. writ. 5/29/11] (c) '11 Mumia Abu-Jamal    Wednesday, 08 June 2011 04:02    PDF Print E-mail
GIL SCOTT-HERON, Radical Poet (1949 - 2011)

At half past 50, one should hardly be surprised at death - especially natural ones.

But we are often betrayed by feelings such as those, as exampled by the recent passing of Gil Scott-Heron, a pioneering poet of the 1970s and '80's, who, with his remarkable baritone, made the smooth transition from protest poet to singer, succeeding brilliantly at both.

As poet, his phrasings were often backed by the percussive power of drums. His later works were supported by a full band of talented musicians, notably the pianist, Brian Jackson - leader of the aptly named Midnight Band.

During this period we also saw the emergence of the somewhat similar Last Poets, a group, usually numbering no more than 4, who also used rich musical accompaniment to support their poetry.

Scott-Heron's poems and songs were often scathing political critiques, which were powerful cultural commentaries, especially during the Watergate-era, around the time of President Nixon's resignation.

Gil Scott-Heron's work, like "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", and "Living in the Bottle", neatly threaded the needle between the political and the personal, and enjoyed considerable airplay on Black and college radio.

Like many artists (especially of the Jazz era) Scott-Heron reportedly utilized controlled substances to feed his need.  His influence (as well as those of the Last Poets) had a powerful impact on the Rap genre that would succeed him.

Gil Scott-Heron was 62.

--(c) '11 maj

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