Gil Scott-Heron, poet / musician / political commentator died yesterday in a NY Hospital.

He is often credited as the ‘grandfather’ of rap and hip-hop.  He’s been “sampled” by a number of artists.  His quirky, often acerbic, poetry set to jazz never caught on in the pop music market.  But, Gil Scott-Heron’s art, wordplay, and intellectual clarity has had a huge influence on many people, including me.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is a phrase that actually ended up used in advertising tag lines …. wow, THAT was one of the most surreal moments ever when I heard that on TV on night!

Like many profoundly talented people, Gil Scott-Heron had his ‘demons.’  But, that cliche doesn’t begin to touch the complexity of his intellect and artistry.  He lived life having fierce conversations about things that matter.  On the way, he was challenged by his own passions, physical chemistry and risky behavior.

I went to see him in Washington, DC last summer.  I stayed for all four days and went to every show.  He was promoting his new album, “I’m New Here.”   ((An ironic title, because he’d never ‘left’  … this was his ‘jab’ at those music critics who thought he went on hiatus.)  His voice wasn’t as silky smooth but his riffs (stories, humor and rants) between the music made me think, laugh, cry and above all be very grateful I was able to see him in person. He looked physically frail when I handed him a bouquet of flowers before the first show.   Those 8 shows are the only time I’ve seen him in concert.  I lived a dream that week.  He played a gig.

May Gil Scott-Heron rest in peace.

Playing with the word ‘peace’ as he did in “Bicentennial Blues” …. Gil Scott-Heron loved peace, fought for peace, might have peace now.  A piece of him lives on in memory.