Gil Scott Heron

(1949-2011)

Poet, novelist, musician, and songwriter Gil Scott-Heron was born in Chicago, Illinois. His father was a professional footballer who had played with Glasgow Celtic.  By age thirteen, Scott-Heron had written his first collection of poems. In 1968, he published his first novel, The Vulture, a murder mystery. Central themes include the devastating effects of drugs on urban black life.  Four years later, Scott-Heron published his second novel, The Nigger Factory (1972), which is set on the campus of a historically black college (HBCU). 

Scott-Heron released more than fifteen albums and was best known as a musician and songwriter. In 1970, he released his first album, New Black Poet Small Talk at 125th and Lennox, Pieces of Man (1971), Free Will (1972) and Winter in America (1974). These albums include such classic works as “The Revolution Will Not be Televised”,   “Lady Day and John Coltrane,” “Whitey on the Moon,” “No Knock On My Brother’s Head,” and “Home Is Where the Hatred Is.”

Known for his spoken word performances, Scott-Heron walked onto the international stage simultaneously as did many of the Black Arts Movement poets, including Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, and Nikki Giovanni. He shared their conviction that art must be functional; therefore, as artist and communal leader, he must embrace his role as a significant political voice committed to the liberation of black people. Scott-Heron’s cacophonous voice resonated as well with that of Malcolm X, the militant prophet-leader from the Nation of Islam who inspired a generation to address the needs and condition of the urban black masses.  The electric, edgy, angry sounds he created with his fusion of soul, jazz, blues, and poetry—often in collaboration with musician Brian Jackson—made him a forerunner to a later generation of rap artists, particularly such socially conscious rappers as Tupac Shakur, Jay Z, Common, and Public Enemy.

Gil Scott-Heron released his last album, We’re Still Here, in 2011. 

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