Black History Month Spotlight: Gil Scott-Heron

For Black History Month, KEXP is giving a spotlight to some of the most outstanding African American artists in modern music history. Gerrit Feenstra, contributor to the KEXP blog, chose jazz musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron.

photo by Mischa Richter

There are few artists as prolific as Gil Scott-Heron. As a novelist, a social activist, and a jazz musician, he pushed the boundaries of his social context and refused to be silenced. Beginning his musical career in 1970 (after writing a handful of novels) with the brilliantly poignant Small Talk at 125th and Lennox, Scott-Heron instantly proved himself to be a masterful poet and pianist. Working with Brian Jackson, he moved through the 70s and 80s through jazz, soul, and fusion creating a visceral sound to accompany his powerful and moving lyrical content.

Gil Scott-Heron’s music maintains its relevance in the modern day. His Small Talk track “Comment #1” was used by Kanye West on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy closer “Who Will Survive in America”. In 2010, his final record I’m New Here dropped on XL, seeing Scott-Heron face the last stage of his human existence with as progressive of a stance as ever. Jamie xx of the xx was given a chance to remix the whole record on We’re New Here before Scott-Heron passed, which yielded the phenomenal rendition of “I’ll Take Care of You”, sampled on Drake’s “Take Care”. From the beginning to end of his career, Gil Scott-Heron pushed the limits of the industry to make some of the most brilliant jazz and dance music we’ve seen. His legacy continues to live on in his absence.

Keep it tuned to KEXP to hear Gil Scott-Heron and other revolutionaries daily.

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