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Saturday, May 28, 2011

RIP Gil Scott-Heron (April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011)

I don't know if I can take anymore.  Shortly after the loss of hip-hop legend Nate Dogg, on Friday night, May 27th we lost the soul legend Gil Scott-Heron.  Heron was born in Chicago, Illinois, lived for a time in Jackson, Tennessee, and later moved, and spent most of his time in New York City, New York.  Heron worked with and influenced some of the greatest musicians of his time.  In 2001, Heron was imprisoned for possession of cocaine.  After getting into trouble numerous times for the next 5 years, and after allegations that he had AIDS arose, Heron was able to recover from his addictions, and return to music.  His comeback included a critically acclaimed album, and benefit concerts, something he partook in often throughout his career.  Heron died in New York City after getting sick on a European trip.
Heron's career spanned 40 years, from 1970 all the way until last year, 2010.  His accomplishments include 15 studio albums, 9 live albums, 11 compilation albums, 5 books, and 3 film appearances.  However it is what he inspired, perhaps more than what he made that is his greatest legacy. Known as "the black Bob Dylan" and "the godfather of rap," Heron's spoken word songs over instrumentals, such as the timeless "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"  have been labeled as the earliest rap songs ever recorded.  If that wasn't enough, his songs were repeatedly sampled throughout hip-hop, allowing Heron's music to live on in a new generation, who may have never heard of his name.  The list of rappers and producers who have sampled his music includes Aesop Rock, Talib Kweli, Common, Grand Puba, Black Star, MF Doom, Mos Def, Q-Tip, Dr. Dre, The Game, and most notably Kanye West.  
For those of you who haven't had the privilege of hearing Heron's music yet, please take this time to get acquainted with at least his biggest songs (see: "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," "Home Is Where the Hatred Is," "Pieces of a Man," "The Get out of the Ghetto Blues," and "The Bottle")  His albums Pieces of a Man, Free Will, and Winter in America are all well worth buying and should be considered American classics.  
In response to Heron's passing, hip-hop icon Chuck D wrote "RIP GSH..and we do what we do and how we do because of you." on his twitter account.  His sentiment is echoed by all who knew, or knew of Gil Scott-Heron.  The revolution will never be televised.

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