The Power of One

By Teryl Warren

On May 27, the world lost one of its most prolific political artists; and mourners like Chuck D, Eminem and Usher took to Twitter to publicly express their grief over the passing of poet, activist and musician Gil Scott-Heron.

Gil Scott-Heron was born on April 1, 1949 in Chicago, Illinois.  The son of a Jamaican soccer player father and a songstress mother, Scott-Heron was heavily influenced by Harlem Renaissance legend Langston Hughes – even to the point of attending college at Hughes’ alma mater, Lincoln University.  At Lincoln, he met pianist Brian Jackson, with whom he formed his iconic Black & Blues band.  Throughout the 1970’s, Gil Scott-Heron et al enthralled audiences with their stunning, provocative brand of “bluesology.”  Works like 1971’s Pieces of a Man, and the 1974 opus Winter in America brought Gil Scott-Heron respect and fame; and through works like The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, he solidified his spot among the pantheon of black militant gods.

Gil Scott-Heron was, all at once, the voice of the vanguard and the soul of black folks.  If, as Ossie Davis eulogized, Malcolm X was our “living Black manhood,” then, without question, Gil Scott-Heron was our furious collective consciousness.  For more than 40 years, he shook a proverbial fist at this world’s hypocrisy – chastising us for our sins and demanding that we become better, immediately.  He taught us to speak, unapologetically, on matters that impact our daily lives; and he showed us that lyrics and a microphone, when used properly, can be one of the most ppowerful forces on earth.

His influence on hip hop music is obvious in the works of respected artists like Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Common, to name a few.  Often referred to as the “Godfather of rap,” Gil Scott-Heron was one of the first artists to fuse jazz music, percussion and lyrics together into a seamless art form.  The substance of his compositions was insightful, inflammatory, critical and critically acclaimed.

Brother Gil, you have taught your people well; and now, we pray that you will rest in love, in peace and in comfort.  You blessed the world with your strength, your talent and your courage.  Though gone from us in the flesh, we know that you will never be silenced, and you will never be forgotten.  For as long as there remains even one disenfranchised person on this planet, your spirit, your message and your legacy will live on in them.

Gil Scott-Heron
April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011

Leave A Comment