NEW YORK (AP) — Musician Gil Scott-Heron, who helped lay the groundwork for rap by fusing minimalistic percussion, political expression and spoken-word poetry on songs such as “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” died Friday at age 62.

A friend, Doris C. Nolan, who answered the telephone listed for his Manhattan recording company, said he died in the afternoon at St. Luke’s Hospital after becoming sick upon returning from a European trip.

“We’re all sort of shattered,” she said.

Scott-Heron’s influence on rap was such that he sometimes was referred to as the Godfather of Rap, a title he rejected.

“If there was any individual initiative that I was responsible for it might have been that there was music in certain poems of mine, with complete progression and repeating `hooks,’ which made them more like songs than just recitations with percussion,” he wrote in the introduction to his 1990 collection of poems, “Now and Then.”

He referred to his signature mix of percussion, politics and performed poetry as bluesology or Third World music. But then he said it was simply “black music or black American music.”

“Because Black Americans are now a tremendously diverse essence of all the places we’ve come from and the music and rhythms we brought with us,” he wrote.

Scott-Heron recorded the song that would make him famous, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” in the 1970s in Harlem. He followed up that recording with more than a dozen albums, initially collaborating with musician Brian Jackson. His most recent album was “I’m New Here,” which he began recording in 2007 and was released in 2010

Scott-Heron was born in Chicago on April 1, 1949. He was raised in Jackson, Tenn., and in New York before attending college at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

Before turning to music, he was a novelist, at age 19, with the publication of “The Vulture,” a murder mystery.

He also was the author of “The Nigger Factory,” a social satire.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



Comments (12)
  1. John Taylor says:

    Rest in peace, Gil.

  2. StanF says:

    It feels like Winter in America tonight – Rest well, my brother –

  3. Ken F. says:

    I saw him at a student concert while in college in 1977. He opened for George Benson and played for two hours straight. After a 30 minute break, Benson also played for two hours. Four hours of music for $5 plus a $2 student association round trip bus ride to another college in a neighboring state. So $7 total to see these two acts. The newspaper reviews actually claimed that Heron gave a better performance than Benson.

    I remember bringing in my own beer and they didn’t care as long as it wasn’t in bottles. I brought a six pack, drank two on the bus, and I loaded my ski jacket with 4 cans of beer for the concert. They frisked me for bottles, but the beer cans clanked off the turnstile and they never said anything. What a time that was…

    I remember this black girl complained in the bus back from the concert that, ‘that concert wasn’t worth $5 !!’. C’mon, for 4 hours of music ?? Benson alone was a big star at the time and could have commanded more than that..

  4. Michael J. McDermott says:

    Those were the days. Those were THE days. All about great music and social progress. It all seemed like it was in reach. And for $5.00? I’ve seen many memorable concerts for about $7.00 and under. How about George Benson headlining Stanley Clarke?

    I’ve been a fan of Gil for a long time but never saw him. Finally I had the chance to see him at the club Lingerie in Hollywood. Perfect club to see him in, I thought. I bought my ticket almost two months in advance from ticketron. I wasn’t going to miss this one. Finally the day arrived. I arrived at the club early and got a great seat. His band came out without Gill and warmed up. His band was really good. When Gil Scott finally came out he banged on the (I assume rented) keyboard and exclaimed; “Man, this is the worst keyboard in the world”, and left the stage. The band followed him. I waited for what seemed like an hour, until somebody came to the microphone and said, “Mr. Heron has taken ill, you will receive a full refund at the door”. Yes, I was super disappointed. Was thinking to myself, just my luck.

    I was thinking he was just angry at the poor quality of the rented equipment. I’ve seen how some of these cartage people handle musical equipment for hire and it’s pretty sad. The people who worked at S.I.R. at that time were just a bunch of stupid hillbillys. I can tell you this first hand because I personally worked there briefly. If it isn’t commercial rock, they usually know nothing about the artist let alone the equipment. So, they just don’t care what they rent to them.

    But, I was talking to a D.J. friend of mine who had interviewed Gil around that time, 1995 or so, and he told me while looking at Gil and interviewing him, he thought he looked like he had 3 days to live. So, perhaps he really was sick.

    For what it’s worth, he actually played at L.A. Trade Tech here in Los Angeles. There is an 8 X 10 black and white glossy picture in one of the trophy windows in the library, and sure enough, it’s Gil Scott Heron and band playing outside. It may have been the 70’s. The picture was still there as of 2005. When I first saw it I said very audibly, WOW! I’m sure I received some strange looks from people in the library wondering what could possibly in that trophy window to command such an outburst. I think it’s also a safe bet that I was probably the only person in the entire school who even knew who the heck he was. Shucks, I’m still disappointed that I didn’t get to see him.
    Gil Scott Heron. One of the great ones. I’m still a big fan of yours.

    1. Michael J. McDermot says:

      Just another imbecile trying to be BAAAAD, I guess….. Like your site though.

  5. leroybrown says:

    Maybe rap will finally go six under.

  6. BIG FAN says:

    wow,such memories i remember when he came out with the song angel dust and telling us all it’s just not where it’s at.R.I.P. my Brother

    1. Michael J. McDermott says:

      I agree man.

  7. Sandra Murphy says:

    World losses are inevitable, however, however we mourn not because the “Revolution,” is here! Those who guide our thought and shape the times in which we live our heroes, super-visionaries, and most importantly, they are eternal legends who set correct pace, constructive borders, and proper movement!

    Death remove the body but the spirit of legend live within our souls,

    Rest in peace, Gil Scott
    May, 2011

    1. Michael J. McDermott says:

      The last word is yours Sandra Murphy.

      Beautifully said. Thank you.

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