Gil Scott-Heron, the poet and musician who was a primary influence for generations of hip-hop artists, died on May 27 at the age of 62. Scott-Heron has been called "the Godfather of Hip Hop music," and is best known for spoken-word songs, including the iconic ''The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,'' which he wrote for his first album at 21. In the words of columnist Nat Hentoff, he was a ''protean phenomenon.''
Details remain thin as to how he died, although Scott-Heron is known to have been HIV positive and struggled with drug abuse for much of his life. In 2000, after years of reports about his drug use, Scott-Heron pleaded guilty to felony possession of cocaine, and agreed to enter a residential treatment program, according to the New York Times. A New Yorker profile of one year ago also recounted in depth Scott-Heron's struggles with crack addiction.
However, there was a resurgence of interest in his work in 2010, when he returned with his first studio album in 16 years, "I’m New Here." The record had come about after an English fan and record producer, Richard Russell, had written to Scott-Heron and then visited him in prison on Rikers Island in 2006, according to the Telegraph.
A host of artists have come forward to paid often emotional tributes to Scott-Heron. Talib Kweli offered a tribute in a series of tweets from his Twitter account:
“Wow. The rest of my night I'm gonna listen to Gil Scot Heron. We love you brother. We will miss you. RIP... I met Gil Scot Heron at SOBs in 1993, I went to see him perform. He completely influenced me as an artist."
"This got me f*cked up. I havent felt like this inna minute."
"Who Will Survive In America? Who said that, Kanye? No, Gil Scot Heron."
Slaughterhouse rapper Joell Ortiz also tweeted his memories of Scott-Heron:
"RIP Gil Scott Heron... Seen Gil Scott Heron at Joe's Pub when I was a kid. Prince was there"
"RIP Gil Scott-Heron, he influenced all of hip-hop."
Producer Just Blaze tweeted:
“Terrible news to get while on stage... No one in my family died but gil scot was ... ah forget it. Gonna finish this show”
Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers recounted details of the first and only time he spoke to Scott-Heron in a blog post on his website:
"To my surprise he knew who I was. In a matter of minutes we were on a nice wavelength... I send my heartfelt condolences to his family and may he rest in peace."
Public Enemy front man Chuck D, who has cited Scott-Heron's early work as a major influence and was to be featured on an upcoming project with Scott-Heron, tweeted:
"RIP GSH..and we do what we do and how we do because of you.And to those that don't know tip your hat with a hand over your heart & recognize... Quite stunned at the fact I just wrote and recorded guest vocals on one of his next albums.This makes one realize that time is precious,damn"
And Richard Russell, the producer of Gil Scott-Heron's final studio album from XL Recording, wrote a tribute to Scott-Heron on his blog:
Gil was not perfect in his own life. But neither is anyone else. And he judged no one. He had a fierce intelligence, and a way with words which was untouchable; an incredible sense of humour and a gentleness and humanity that was unique to him.
Gil meant a massive amount to me, as he did to so many people. His talent was immense. He was a a master lyricist, singer, orator, and keyboard player. His spirit was immense. He channeled something that people derived huge benefit from... I have shared some of the best experiences of my life with Gil.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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