I was made by the struggle of the 60’s that lent it’s DNA to the 70’s which birthed me. There was so much diversity in the womb of sound I swirled in. . . I am sure my spirit was open to art from the moment I was a thought.
Into that mix came Gil Scott Heron. . . A man of words. For me,Gil Scott Heron occupies a similar space with Bob Dylan, in that he told stories too, of the moment in which he lived.
Brother Gil Scott Heron’s lens was focused on chocolate cities, and the lives of the “least of these,” and how it is, in a place with so much promise, America, there could still be an underclass. He gave hip/hop, and modern spoken word a reference point. He brought poetry to the prose of soul music. Today’s Hip/Hop would do well to refamiliarize itself with Gil. . . ((nuff said on that))
Backstory: I got to see the power of his performance close-up, long before I fully understood who Gil Scott Heron was. My brother Kimble, a lot older than me, had transferred to Oberlin College in Ohio, from Worcester Polytechnic in Massachusets. He was a student there when he passed away tragically in a boating accident. The student union was so moved by his passing that they helped to create a scholarship in his name, and a benefit concert in his honor. Gil Scott Heron was brought in to perform.
That night changed my life. I spent most of the afternoon on stage with Gil’s keyboard player, who sort of took me under his wing and shared chord changes, lessons on the Fender Rhodes electric piano he played, and conversation. Gil had dinner with my family, and encouraged me to make music if that was what I wanted. . . . but he reiterated I would have to be serious. “Be serious about your words. . . ” he told me. I will never forget that.
Years later, I reached out to Gil when he was in prison, (behind a drug relapse), and had a chance to tell him once again how very much I appreciated his words to the universe, and to me. It was so good to see him back again with his release “I’m New Here. . . ” and the critical acclaim it received.
We are made by our mothers and fathers, true. . . But the experiences we have. . .the spirits we meet, also MAKE us. For my part, I am grateful a part of me was made by Gil Scott Heron.