Sunday, 29 May 2011

'There is nothing wrong with standing up for what you believe in'

Gil Scott-Heron, who died yesterday, was a poet, writer, musician and political activist. He combined them all to leave an indelible mark on the world of music.

As this Observer interview highlights, the experience of racism, and the struggle against it, was a defining influence throughout his life.

A pioneer of rap, though he 'often bristled at the suggestion', Gil Scott-Heron was one of those very rare musicians who's music captured the anger and disillusionment of black America in the 1970's and 80's, as the hopes of the civil rights movement receded.

He gave voice to an experience of African Americans, but his music and message appealed and inspired beyond.

Perhaps because of his own well documented problems with drug and alcohol abuse, he had insight and empathy with those who had fallen upon hard times and were a little bent and broken by the pressures of life.

Maybe it takes one poet to best appreciate another. If so, the last words belong to Benjamin Zephaniah, who described him as 'Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Bob Marley all mixed up'.

Somehow, the world today seems a lesser place without Gil Scott-Heron. May he Rest In Peace.