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In Memorium: Gil Scott-Heron

By / Posted on 30 May 2011

Gil Scott-HeronThe world lost one of its greatest and most dynamic voices this weekend. Gil Scott-Heron, novelist-turned-beat-poet-turned-soul-singer, is often praised as the godfather of rap and was one of the most prominent and prolific voices of change in 1970s America. With more in common with Allen Ginsburg and Bob Dylan than with Eminem and Ja Rule, Scott-Heron was an active voice of the common man’s political and societal unrest who preferred to think of himself as a “bluesologist.” His defenses weakened from crushing decade that included being diagnosed as HIV positive, Scott-Heron became ill after a European trip and was declared dead on Friday, May 27th, 2011.

It seemed only appropriate that on today, America’s Memorial Day, we remember Gil Scott-Heron, the voice of a generation and originator of an entirely new and revolutionary art form. As such, we have compiled a mix of eight of the most memorable recordings from Scott-Heron’s illustrious career.

Live beat poems “Who’ll Pay Reparations For My Soul” and “Pardon Our Analysis” show Gil as the hostile-yet-hilarious revolutionary that captured the attention of audiences worldwide. “No Knock” and Scott-Heron’s most well-known piece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” take those compelling beat poems and set them to music in a manner more powerful than many rappers today. “Home is Where the Hatred is” and “Gun” foray into soul and blues while “Running” shows the darker, more introspective material Scott-Heron focused on later in his life. Finally, “Who Will Survive in America,” the closing track from Kanye West’s critical-smash 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, based entirely around a clip from Gil’s “Comment #1.”

Rest well, Gilbert. You’ve earned it. No more “Get Out of the Ghetto Blues” for you.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.