The world has lost a true original with this weekend's death of long-time musician, songwriter, poet and artist Gil Scott-Heron.
ATLANTIC CITY — This writer was disturbed to the very soul upon receiving a text Saturday morning, May 28, from a close friend that one of the all-time great musicians, singers, songwriters and people had died, the Harlem, N.Y., based genius Gil Scott Heron.
His death was originally announced via his manager on Twitter and then confirmed by his latest record company, XL recordings, which released Scott-Heron's 2010 "comeback" album I'm New Here.
This writer was lucky enough to meet Gil several times over the past 20 years, and spoke to him on occasion on the phone from his New York home office.
Especially over the past few years, after the two of us hung out in a tiny dressing room following the final show of Scott-Heron's three-night residency at Washington D.C.'s Blues Alley club a few Junes ago.
(In a cramped space with a mirror and an ashtray full of smoked cigarettes, Scott-Heron wore a gray suit with a white button-down shirt. He smoked Marlboro reds, with his eyes closed. He was in pain, I could tell, and his girlfriend — who was the one who got me backstage in the first place — was rubbing his forehead. He was sweating. While he was finishing a plate of food the club had provided for him, she (Sylkie, as I quickly scribbled her name down in my notebook)) told me that she would send me a copy of Scott-Heron's Tin Angel show from the mid-to-late 1990s after Gil and I were talking about how great the show was. He remembered the place and the show and said that he taped all his shows. I watched him, still in disbelief that here I was, sitting and talking to the author of some of the greatest American songs. Talking about how my baby daughter loved "We Almost Lost Detroit," which he played that night at Blues Alley, and about his upcoming projects, which at the time were his then-uncompleted new album, I'm New Here, and a book project about his 1980 tour with Stevie Wonder. More on that later.)
This writer will never forget Gil, over the telephone from his New York office space, playing songs from his forthcoming release, shooting the breeze, and asking what I thought about them. (Click here for a riveting 2010 interview with Gil Scott Heron from AC Weekly)
The book he had been working on, following a 40-year career as a poet, singer-songwriter and author, he explained during the last time we spoke — about a year ago — revolved around the 1980 tour Scott-Heron was on with Stevie Wonder. A tour during which John Lennon was murdered; the news was revealed to Wonder and Scott-Heron before the show started that night. Stevie, according to Gil, decided not to tell the crowd at the show's start— this was before the age of the Internet — so as not to cause a traumatic environment.
Instead, Gil Scott-Heron and his always outstanding band — The Amnesia Express — opened the show without a mention of Lennon's murder in New York City. Wonder's band then came on and followed suit. Then, right before the end of Wonder's set, the singer shared the horrifying news to the outdoor, big-arena crowd.
During one of his many and often very funny, authority-questioning, and freedom-inspiring stories during his latter-day live show sets — which had just started in recent years to become more frequent — Gil would tell the tale of The Last Holiday, the running title of this still-to-be-released book. (The book was originally going to be published in 2003, but was pushed back and eventually canceled. Over the course of the last two years, Scott-Heron said he was told by the publisher, the U.K.-based Cannongate Books, that he needed to edit more of the several hundred-page manuscript, and he was working on doing so at his New York apartment last year when we last spoke.)
The book, according to Scott-Heron, dealt with the truth. The truth about what really happened the night that Lennon was killed, the truth about Stevie Wonder and Gil Scott-Heron's campaign, during that 1980 tour, to help make Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a National Holiday in all 50 states of the U.S.A. When and if it's released by Cannongate, it sounds like it will stand well with his recorded output, strengthening the legacy of this magical, tortured, beautiful, thoughtful, addicted, depressed, hilarious, sick and genius songwriter.
As Gil told audiences at several shows in recent years, including a Passover show a few years back at the World Cafe in Philly, and at the Tin Angel in 2010, also in Philadelphia — a city where Gil had a strong bond and a large contingent of fans, friends, family and followers — on the night of Lennon's death, the media reported something to the effect of: STEVIE WONDER DOESN'T EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE LENNON'S DEATH AT CONCERT. This, even though Wonder deliberated for a long time on what to do and eventually did indeed tell the audience. The problem was, as Gil would say with his wide smile, pulling at his scraggly gray beard or tugging on his ever-present baseball cap, was that the news reporter who wrote the story didn't stay until the end of the concert and wrote the untruthful story due to his incompetence and laziness as a newspaper writer.
Evidently, not wanting to cause any mass chaos or crying, Wonder waited to till the end of his set to tell the thousands gathered that Lennon had been shot. However, as Gil would point out in his oft-repeated story, the reporter at the Wonder/Scott-Heron show "didn't stay until the end," only sticking around for Gil's set (during which it was agreed beforehand that he wouldn't make any mention) and a part of Wonder's set.
The story, which will likely be a part of Holiday, goes along with Scott-Heron's other famous motto: "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" — "You Can't Always Believe Everything You Read in the Paper."
As well as being a seeker of truth and civil rights for all mankind, Gil was an underground music legend in his own time and a hero among early rap artists. In America he may have been kept underground because of the political content of his lyrics and the too-close-for-comfort truth in his songs, especially pertaining to the poor as well African-Americans, but in Europe he was a much bigger star.
After starting out as "street poet," combining his young poetry with sparse instrumentation at first, Scott-Heron would join forces with multi-instrumentalist and producer Brian Jackson for a number of years, albums and R&B hits, including "The Bottle" and "Angel Dust." The R&B fans whom embraced him as his Amnesia Express rolled around the world through "Snow in Nashville" and "Rain in Philly," as he sings in the biographical song "Hello Sunday, Hello Road!" from his still unreleased-on-CD 1977 album for Arista entitled Bridges, stuck with him through the mid-1970s and early '80s, up until he stopped recording and touring the States as much.
In 1994, he released one of his finest albums, the masterful Spirits.
Nearly two decades later, I'm New Here was released on the U.K.-based XL Recordings. His final release featured a spooky cover of Robert Johnson's "Me & The Devil Blues"; a stark, acoustic guitar-propelled version of XL labelmate Bill Callahan's title track ("Yeah, that’s Callahan," Scott-Heron told AC Weekly around the time of the record's release. "I like Bill Callahan. I think he’s got a real dry sense of humor. And I think where he’s coming from is real contemporary."); and a lot of raw emotion.
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Atlantic City Weekly's Weekend Hot Tub Party is honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a look back at the outcomes of the civil rights movement, some interesting facts you might not have known and a sweet playlist of songs inspired by Dr. King, some that were even performed at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where King delivered his infamous "I Have a Dream" speech.
Plus the Album of the Week, Drew Toonz, and this weekend's Jazz Vespers salute to Art Blakey, featuring Keith Hollis.
From prominent local business people, musicians and humanitarians, to movie stars, politicians and internationally known faces, 2011 bid farewell to many interesting and outstanding personalities.
In a year that saw the return of widespread protests around the world, the power and potential of grass-roots movements, such as Occupy Wall Street, more and more bad economic news and forecasts, the music industry seemed to bounce back with a bunch of solid releases, including new albums by Kanye West and Jay-Z, Adele, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and others, as 'indie' labels such as Sub Pop, Yep Roc, and ANTI-, emerged as the leaders of a new renaissance in the music biz. Meanwhile, reissues, by specialty labels like Legacy, were among the most exciting "new" music of 2011. Atlantic City Weekly runs an Album of the Week column on the Coasting page each week, and the editors have put together a list of the best 2011 albums of the bunch, as well as several re-issues, and albums we didn't get a chance to write about yet for a total of 50 albums that you may or may not have heard yet. 2011 Albums of the Year (in no particular order. Click on links to see album review; when you get to page, scroll down to the Album of the Week column). Rock on. Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The...
he quarterfinals are this Thursday, Sept. 1, and the semifinals are the following Thursday, Sept. 8. The championship round will take place Sept. 15.
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Even these days, when poet-singer-songwriter-keyboardist Gil Scott-Heron, one of the greatest songwriters of the past 40 years, performs his song “95 South (All of the Places We’ve Been),” he prefaces it with a dedication to the woman who inspired the 1977 song, which is included on the album Bridges.
Happy Dad Day I'M LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE THE father of two amazing daughters (thanks to their mom, of course). Like I did right before Mother's Day, here's a list of 20 groovy tunes to play for your dad this Father's Day (June 21). Any suggestions? Leave a comment or send to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd like to dedicate the first tune to my dad. Happy Father's Day from New Jersey. 1. "Song for My Father" -- Horace Silver Quintet 2. "Your Daddy Loves You" -- Gil Scott-Heron 3. "Bow-Tie Daddy" -- Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention 4. "Diddley Daddy" -- Bo Diddley 5. "Father of Night" -- Bob Dylan 6. "Walkin' Daddy" -- Greg Brown 7. "Dad's Gonna Kill Me" -- Richard Thompson 8. "I'm Still Your Daddy" -- Merle Haggard 9. "Father & Daughter" -- Paul Simon 10. "Daughter, You're Still Your Daddy's Child" -- Carla Thomas 11. "Rockin' Daddy" -- Eddie Bond 12. "Oh Papa" -- Maria Muldaur 13. "Sins of the Father" -- Tom Waits 14. "Daddy-O" -- Louis Jordan 15. "To Daddy" -- Dolly Parton 16. "Fool to Cry" -- Rolling Stones 17. "Victory at Sea" -- Bill Morrissey 18. "Papa Don't Preach" -- Madonna 19. "Papa Was a Rolling Stone"...
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