Gil Scott-Heron was the reason rap didn’t stick for me. People anticipated Gil’s next poetic and prophetic message in spoken or melodic rhymes like hot buttermilk biscuits out of the oven. Always a feast in days of famine. We also have to give props to Scott-Heron’s collaborator and fellow Lincoln University classmate Brian Jackson who is still with us and putting out new riffs. They both saw the power of poetry and music.
I remember seeing Gil Scott-Heron in concert. He did the college tour. We were all amazed at how skinny he was. I guess he just grew that way. Gil and his band brought the house down. During a solo, his electric bass player popped a string. Rather than stop, the musician wound and snapped the string off and kept going. I remember him performing “Angel Dust,” “Johannesberg.” Of course, the audience threw in the chorus. One of the best concerts I saw during my entire college years.
We all knew about Gil’s addictions. He was a troubled soul who used words like a salve for troubling times. What we may not know is Gill was a teacher at the old Washington, DC Federal City College (now the University of the District of Columbia). You’ll probably only hear about Harlem. But I always considered him a DC music fixture as well. There’s a lot of traffic on my Facebook page from the DC friends. Lots of clicking on links for me this afternoon. May he find peace with the ancestors.
Check out “Message to the Messengers.”