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Famous Like Me > Composer > S > Gil Scott-Heron

Profile of Gil Scott-Heron on Famous Like Me

Name: Gil Scott-Heron  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 1st April 1949
Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron (born April 1, 1949) is an American poet and musician, known primarily for his late 1960s and early 1970s work as a spoken word performer, associated with African American militant activists. Heron is most well known for his poem/song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised".


Scott-Heron was born in Chicago, Illinois, but spent his early childhood in Tennessee, then moving to the Bronx for most of his high school career. After spending a year in college at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, he released his first novel, The Vulture, which was very well-received.

He began recording in 1970 with the LP Small Talk at 125th & Lennox with the assistance of Bob Thiele, co-writer Brian Jackson, Hubert Laws, Bernard Purdie, Charlie Saunders, Eddie Knowles, Ron Carter and Bert Jones, all jazz musicians (see 1970 in music). The album included the aggressive diatribe against his perception of the white-owned corporate media and middle-class America's ignorance of the problems of inner cities in songs such as Whitey On The Moon.

The 1971 Pieces of a Man used more conventional song structures than the loose, spoken word feel of his first, though he didn't reach the charts until 1975 with "Johannesburg". His biggest hit was 1978's "The Bottle", produced by Heron and longtime partner Brian Jackson, which peaked at #15 on the R&B charts (see 1978 in music).

During the 1980s, Scott-Heron continued recording, frequently attacking then-President Ronald Reagan and his conservative policies:

"The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can – even if it’s only as far as last week. Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards. And yesterday was the day of our cinema heroes riding to the rescue at the last possible moment. The day of the man in the white hat or the man on the white horse - or the man who always came to save America at the last moment – someone always came to save America at the last moment – especially in “B” movies. And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan – and it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at – like a B movie" (Gil Scott-Heron, "B" Movie)

Scott-Heron was dropped by Arista in 1985 (see 1985 in music), and quit recording, though he continued to tour. In 1993, he signed to TVT Records and released Spirits and album that included the seminal track Message To The Messengers. The first track on the album was a position point poem to the rap artist of the day and included such comments as:

  • "Four letter words or fours syllable words won't make you a poet, It will only magnify how shallow you are and let ev'rybody know it."
  • "Tell all them gun-totin' young brothers that the 'man' is glad to see us out there killin' one another! We raised too much hell, when they was shootin' us down."
  • "Young rappers, one more suggestion, before I get outta your way. I appreciate the respect you give to me and what you've got to say."

The poem was a recognition of Scott-Heron status as a founding father of rap and a plea for the new rappers to speak for change rather than perpetuate the current social situation, to be more articulate and artistic:

"There's a big difference between putting words over some music, and blending those same words into the music. There's not a lot of humour. They use a lot of slang and colloquialisms, and you don't really see inside the person. Instead, you just get a lot of posturing"

In 2001, Gil Scott-Heron was incarcerated for drug and/or domestic abuse offenses. Apparently, the death of his mother and funeral expenses coupled with crack cocaine led to a downward spiral. While out of jail in 2002, Gil Scott-Heron recorded with and appeared on the Blackalicious album, "Blazing Arrow."

His father, Gil Heron, was a soccer player for the Scottish club Celtic F.C. in the 1950s. Celtic F.C. was at this time the football team of Scotland's Irish catholic immigrants.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Gil Scott-Heron