Today is the birthday of one of my very favorites!! The poet/vocalist/songwriter/novelist Gil Scott-Heron was one of the great lyricists of all time, combining the personal and political, and as a vocalist he would weave his stories into the fantastic soul-jazz tunes he cooked up with Brian Jackson. The music contained elements of blues, jazz, Latin and funk, and he has been justly considered a precursor to hip-hop, with GSH's "rapping" delivery and socio-political consciousness.
He was inspired by a performance he saw by the Last Poets and released Small Talk At 125th & Lennox in 1970. He started working with Jackson and made a classic run of great albums in the '70s. (Pieces Of A Man stands as one of my personal favorite albums). Aside from Last Poets, he has also cited Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Richie Havens and "Lady Day & John Coltrane" as being major influences. Later years saw him serving some time for drug charges, but also appeared with Blackalicious and others in cameo spots. He released a final album, I'm New Here, shortly before his death. GSH described himself as a "bluesologist".
I am not a very emotional guy but there's something about Gil Scott-Heron (like with Leonard Cohen and John Coltrane) that chokes me up when I hear his music. Sure, call me an emo wimp but the man's words can express the range of living, from tough, yet desperate to positive and joyous, yet always as real as it gets. The unfortunate circumstances of his life prove how small and insignificant we really are, but yet we soldier on however we can.
Here's a few of my favorite of his tunes:
And here's Robert Mugge's 1982 film Black Wax: