My memory is crap, but here’s what I think I can tell you about how I came across Gil Scott-Heron for the first time. I believe I discovered him through the same radio show that introduced me to Tom Waits: Dr. Sheppard’s Electric Medicine Show. I believe I remember correctly that “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” would be played on that show from time to time. Based on that, I sought out The Best of Gil Scott-Heron, where I found that song, “The Bottle,” “Ain’t No Such Thing As Superman” and others.
I leave it to Rob and Tuffley to speak with more authority about the influence Scott-Heron had on rap and hip-hop and so forth. All I can say is that he definitely was one of my first introductions to the concept of a spoken word performance. “What, you mean you can recite poetry with a bit of rhythm in front of some music? Seriously? Man, I can do that.”
Now I find (via The Neil) that he’s died at age 62. I haven’t yet seen a definitive cause of death but as that article states, he was, at least as of last year and according to the New Yorker, losing a battle against crack. Bloody well heartbreaking.
After the break is the song that got me–and scores of others–introduced to him. To the left is the original beat poem version and to the right is the version with instrumentation that I first heard. Both worth revisiting. Rest well, Mr. Scott-Heron. Thanks for everything.