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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tribute: Gil Scott-Heron

Coming of age in the Sixties brought me to choose a lifetime's work as a social activist. Part of the rites of passage for my generation included not just an exploration of ideas and beliefs, but the cultural changes in music and the arts that moved in tandem with the upheavals in society.

Music meant a lot to us, especially when it spoke to the issues we felt were important.

I read tonight that one of the great musicians of that period, Gil-Scott Heron, died at age 62. Though Heron made great music throughout his life, and was hailed by some as the Godfather of Rap, he was so much more than that to me and many others.

As a black muscian, he was one of the first "cross-over" artists whose message was explicitly political. As much as I loved Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Aretha, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, Martha and the Vandellas and so many of the great Motown and Atlantic Records artists who capitvated us white kids, Gil-Scott Heron's voice was the music of liberation.

I could go on about Heron, but instead, listen to him for yourself.

Author: Will Collette