It saddened me to hear of his death. The only others I know who wrote so many important songs were Bob Dylan and John Lennon, Lennon of course not having the lifespan of the other two--maybe Woodie Guthrie in his time. I'm not talking love songs necessarily, or I would add others to the list, but for important content, Gil Scott Heron was . . .
He was a leader. The first time I heard him was about 1973 or 1974. I know the LP for sure was Pieces of a Man. I loved every song. Friends came over to listen to music on my massive Cerwin Vega speaker system. I was one of few who played every kind of music: country, folk, blues, rock--both heavy and soft, big band, celtic, western swing--you name it, it got played--turn it up, no problem. Jazz. It was poetry without words, or sometimes with. I can remember the same time period also playing Pharaoh Sanders, who took the jazz listener to the edge of destruction, then brought them safely back home. Though most of my friends understood and appreciated the '60s songs with significant content (and maybe used me to expose them to such things), Sanders challenged them with just his music. Gil Scott Heron. He did it with music and words. I would invite friends over and when the evening rolled around to jazz, start them out with some soft Gil Scott Heron--Save the Children, I Think I'll Call it Morning, Your Daddy Loves You...slowly slipping into stuff like Pieces of a Man, then...The Revolution Will Not be Televised--friends listened, white friends. I probably had somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen LPs at one time, then CDs came. Transition. Tuskegee 626, We Almost Lost Detroit, The Bottle, B Movie---you tell me--yeah, you know what I mean. Spoken word put to music.
"A rat done bit my sister Nell, but Whitey's on the Moon," my oldest son called from California and recited these words after hearing of his death. He remembered just a couple of weeks ago when I visited him how I played Pieces of a Man on the guitar, and how he wanted to learn how to play the song--we sang it together. Last night, after hearing the news, I slipped into the living room, through the darkness--no light, picked up my guitar, and played the song again...
I listened to several of my old favorites while writing this letter,
It was my way of saying, peace go with you brother.
Thursday, June 9, 2011 8:34 PM
Idea brewing. Gil Scott Heron. Unknown/unpublished poets. The Lost Poets. Tributes spoken word recorded.
bigger idea. Documentary. Established authors, musicians, poets, all recording tributes of spoken word