There was a time in my life when I only wanted to listen to political music. It was then that someone passed along to me a cassette of Gil Scott-Heron. This was around 1999; tape players were already hard to come by. But I managed to wear out that tape in several months.
He was more than a musician, he was a poet that happened to be a multi-instrumentalist. He was a radical agitator with piano and bongo to sweeten his message. He was a visionary, but then again, in some ways he wasn’t: It wasn’t his intention to foster the forthcoming genre of rap. He created poetry set to music, in the tradition of Bob Dylan. He created poetry infused with Jazz in the tradition of Amiri Baraka. His style was never pretensious but always bold. I couldn’t believe that this amazing and diverse poet was undiscovered by most of the people in my social circle. I tried to impose it on everyone with the fervor of a newfound love.
Well, time passes and new loves come to you. I just found out that Gil died this week. I don’t know what to tell you except that I hope you can take some time out of your day to listen to some of his work.
I know he recently released an album but I want to share with you some of the songs that inspired me when I was a teenager. I’ve also included one of the recent songs that Kanye West sampled him on.