Legendary musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron has died at the age of 62, after having fallen ill after returning from a visit to Europe.
Scott-Heron was born in Chicago in 1949 - the son of a former football player in Britain - and grew up in Tennessee before moving to New York where his groundbreaking spoken word recordings helped shape the emerging hip-hop culture.
He was best known for "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", the critically acclaimed recording from his first album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox. The ubiquitous release, first recorded in 1970, issued a fierce critique of the role of race in the mass media and advertising age. "The revolution will not be right back after a message about a white tornado, white lightning or white people," he sang.
This recording marked the first of his collaborations with jazz/funk pianist and flautist Brian Jackson who he met at Lincoln University. The pioneering style he developed while working with Jackson, mixing minimalist percussion with poetry, meant Scott-Heron was often described as the godfather of rap.
But the artist himself frequently rejected this title.
Scott-Heron wrote in the introduction to his 1990 Now and Then collection of poems.
"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,"
Gil Scott-Heron - Me And The Devil from Alcohulk on Vimeo.
Scott-Heron's 2010 album, I'm New Here, was his first new studio release in 16 years and was hailed by critics across the globe. The album's first song, "On Coming From a Broken Home", is an ode to his maternal grandmother, Lillie, who raised him in Jackson, Tennessee, until her death when he was 13. He moved to New York after that.
Gil Scott Heron’s last release was an album of remixes with Jamie XX of the aformentioned 2010 album.
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx - "I'm New Here". XL Recordings brief from Chromas Button on Vimeo.
The cause of his death is not clear, but he is believed to have become ill after a recent trip. Jamie Byng, his UK publisher, announced the news via Twitter: "Just heard the very sad news that my dear friend and one of the most inspiring people I've ever met, the great Gil Scott-Heron, died today."
Byng’s touching elegy, “Gil Scott-Heron, my brave and brilliant friend” appeared in the Guardian yesterday.
Rest in Peace Gil Scott-Heron.