The man was a shock to my system when first my ears touch upon "Whitey On The Moon," Gil Scott-Heron's bongo-powered indictment of White America's priorities in terms of taxpayer dollars: "I can't pay no doctor bill/(but Whitey's on the moon)/Ten years from now I'll be payin' still/(while Whitey's on the moon)." It's not as if I hadn't already been exposed to Afro-centric pride and racially inspired backlash via the more vocal amongst hip-hop's reigning champions, (most notably the words of Public Enemy and then later with Talib Kweli and Mos Def), but Scott-Heron's delivery, backed by one mere, simple hand drum, was compelling. Yes, there was anger to the man, poetic outrage at the words' core. But, Heron wasn't only a voice of dissent: he was the embodiment of protest art, his combination of words and tone a perfect conveyance of frustration and hope for something better, canvas worthy assessments of living situations for Black People.
Heron has been referred to as the "Black Dylan," and while to some this might dilute his impact on music, especially in terms of hip-hop's genesis, it does illustrate well enough the type of poetic and performance capability Scott-Heron possessed.
Gil Scott-Heron has passed away at the age of 62. Being at the forefront of an entire genre's beginnings, hip-hop's earliest days being based upon graffiti, DJ'ing, dancing and performance, Scott-Heron's legacy will be that he helped build this culture. As recent as last year, Scott-Heron's comeback after years spent under the weight of drug abuse and legal troubles, I'm New Here, brought a wiser, though older and somewhat beaten down, artist back to a welcoming public. The album exuded an old man's wisdom in a modernized age, a final shot at redemption having been met before time was up.
"Lady Day and John Coltrane" from Pieces Of A Man (Gil Scott-Heron).
"I'm New Here" from I'm New Here (Bill Callahan).
"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" from Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (Gil Scott-Heron).
"New York Is Killing Me (Chris Cunningham Remix)" original version from I'm New Here (Gil Scott-Heron).
He will be missed.
Letters From A Tapehead
P.S. If interested, please see my review of I'm New Here at No Ripcord.
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