Friday, May 27, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron, April 1, 1949 - May 27, 2011

A great composer and performer, a recognized novelist, who had a weakness for coke, and apparently not getting proper HIV meds from his halfway house, left, and thus found himself in jail of late, entirely too often, entirely too long. This didn't help. 62 years old...he helped create rap, did impressive jazz-pop, and wrote incisive lyrics even after life had torn up his voice. Rest in glory.

I saw him and his concert band once, at George Mason University, in 1989. Brilliant set.

"Lady Day and John Coltrane"

From the Wikipedia page:
In the liner notes [for his first album, Small Talk at 125th and Lennox], Scott-Heron acknowledged as influences Richie Havens, John Coltrane, Otis Redding, Jose Feliciano, Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Nina Simone, and the pianist who would become his long-time collaborator, Brian Jackson.

"Johannesburg" in concert

"Home Is Where the Hatred Is"

"Winter in America"

"No Knock"

"Message to the Messengers"

"I Think I'll Call It Morning"

brief interview, about "...Televised"


Paul D Brazill said...

I saw him in the '80s, too. I my home town, Hartlepool, amazingly! Smashing gig.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The average life of a jazz musician must be about sixty years.

Todd Mason said...

Well, most of them aren't as stupid and self-pitying as, say, Miles Davis any more, and deciding to get hooked because of peer pressure. (Scott-Heron had a pretty rough early life...Davis most assuredly did not.) So, the longevity of all musicians (not solely jazz musicians) is increasing these decades. But artists do tend to find ways of trying to cope that can be contrasurvival, there's no two ways there.

C. Margery Kempe said...

A nice (re)collection here, Todd. And yeah on the self-destructive coping mechanisms, unfortunately.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks. Would that we didn't know ourselves firsthand, in that last matter.

iluvcinema said...

My late father was a massive fan. I just went into his room this morning and the first set of disks I saw still sitting on his CD rack was his Gil Scott Heron collection.

Anonymous said...

I was Googling the 1989 concert at GMU, and I came across this post. My husband and I were also there that night. I remember he walked right past me in the middle of a set (I think he was headed to the bathroom). The music just kept on flowing, and he picked up right where he left off. RIP.

Todd Mason said...

Wow, Iba, that might almost feel like a double punch, if a considerably lighter one than your father's actual passing. A memory poke. Hope it triggers good memories.

It was a good-sized turnout, Xenakaboom, and not the best layout they could've made for the concert (just by sitting in the chair I was sitting in, I had to move aside for an intensely concentrating young woman to get by, who turned out to be the other primary keyboardist in the band, on her way to the stage). I think I also (faintly) remember him stepping off the bandstand once.