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Gil Scott-Heron

July 25, 2011


A week before Gil Scott-Heron’s death on May 27 at 62, I recorded a guest vocal on a remix of his song “Third World Revolution.” I was honored, of course. I first met Gil when we appeared on a CBS Morning News show in 1988. I’m typically quiet in the presence of royalty—musical or otherwise—so I just listened carefully that time and on the few occasions we got together after that.

Obviously, Gil’s art, music and opinion formed a basis for rap music. His performances, with their ad-lib-lecture-poet-style commentary, were like his own onstage play-by-play. And though he didn’t like to claim responsibility, he clearly is a cornerstone of what we do and why we do it, especially when we get it right. No him, no us.

What gets me is that for the past 25 years, folks had said he was so frail. And yet he kept keeping on, smashing great songs, albums and concerts, all of which were a testament to his will and strength. He was and will remain a man whose powerful lines can knock you over in under 140 characters.

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