All of the Places We've Been

If you grew up in conscious household like I did--where the man was only known as Gil Scott--this is a sad day:


A friend, Doris C. Nolan, who answered the telephone listed for his Manhattan recording company, said Mr. Scott-Heron, 62, 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. Mr. Scott-Heron was sometimes 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."

Of course The Revolution Will Not Be Televised overshadows everything. Which is sad, if unavoidable. There's an entire Heron canon. Here is one of my favorites (dedicated to the patriot Fannie Lou Hamer, no less,) and it seems oddly appropriate.

My condolences to Heron's family.

MORE: James Fallows on listening to Heron while working for the Washington Monthly in the early 70s. 

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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