Remembering Gil Scott-Heron…


So, Dave, “Another one bites the dust,” in the words of Freddie Mercury of Queen, who in fact bit the dust himself.

Saw G S-H at the Palace around the height of his fame and influence; the Crusaders opened and were smooth and sweet, so it was an odd, odd bill. G ranted-rapped with Brian Jackson and the Midnight Band, an OK-if-generic funk outfit – a jazz-rock sonic billboard for his words – but ain’t nothin’ generic about G.

(I liked all that stuff then: that righteous anger Harlem-Oakland-London-Kingston-Capetown-Chicago poetic polemical outrage and all its wild-ass diasporic complications: Not just Bob Marley but also Linton Kwesi Johnson; Marvin G. and Sly, when he was still awake. I’d seen the Last Poets at the SUNYA gym a bit before this, and they were better than G S-H, with a band that rocked and funked but whose only member I can remember was Jimmy Cobb who held his snare in one hand at arm’s length and blasted the frantic fuck out of it with two sticks in the other hand. Motherfuckalicious.)

G didn’t have the music in him like the Last Poets did, or a band that could threaten civilization as we know it. But the guy was real, for real. He meant it, but he was also funny in the most can’t-stop-the-blood-flow serious way. For a not good enough reason, I was there with one of my brothers in law. (Some of those guys would have been cool there, this one wasn’t – though we have the same birthday.) We were about the only honkies in the Palace and it wasn’t a comfortable vibe, looking like The Man – though we were both probably more in tune with the power-to-the-people thang than the kids there for the beat or the blacksoisie there for the Crusaders.

Those who went there for other than the motherfuckalicious got that, but they/we all got more, too.

Ain’t many shows I’ve seen where I walked out knowing I was different than when I went in, but G S-H did that.

Story by Message from a Blue Mailbox

RIP: Gil Scott-Heron, 1949-2011

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