Poet, musician, activist, author, bluesologist. These are all terms that have been used to describe the great Gil Scott-Heron, who more humbly refers to himself simply as a "piano player from Tennessee". Most famous for his era-defining 1970's poem, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," Gil Scott-Heron's politically charged material made him a stalwart figure in the 1970's civil rights movement. His lyrical content covered topics like the superficiality of television and mass consumerism, the hypocrisy of some would-be Black revolutionaries, white middle-class ignorance of the difficulties faced by inner-city residents, and fear of homosexuals.
Not only a pioneer of blues, jazz and funk, his honesty, matter-of-fact delivery and fearlessness to address important social issues in the face of media criticism made him one of the foremost progenitors of contemporary hip-hop and spoken word.
Among countless other allusions and references, Public Enemy used the phrase "the revolution will not be televised" to open its classic 1987 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Kanye West sampled Gil's timeless "Home is Where the Hatred Is" on the Common-supported "On My Way" from 2005's Late Registration.
In the current global climate of social and political upheaval, Gil Scott-Heron has picked the perfect time to resurface and offer his catalogue up for consumption again, along with some new material. Gil is currently close to completion on his latest book, The Last Holiday, which tells the story of Stevie Wonder's 1980 campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday.
He will release his first new studio album since 1994 next year. Snippets from four of the album's songs, 'A.M.', 'I'm New Here', 'Me And The Devil' and 'I'll Take Care Of You', can be heard now at the official website for the album, Imnewhere.net.
Unpredictable throughout his career, Gil Scott-Heron remains somewhat of a mystery to the public; fans will have to show up to his live performances to see what songs he'll perform and what iconic musicians will show up to join him.