In 2001, Gil appeared on a "Charlie Rose meets Bill O'Reilly" style BBC TV interview show called HARDtalk. Fascinating stuff as Gil gets asked point blank about his drug issues. Fascinating also in how brilliant a man Gil is no matter his state of mind, body, and voice.
Gil Scott-Heron stands as a towering figure of black popular music. With a masters in creative writing from Johns Hopkins, the writer, poet, composer, pianist, and modern-day griot is a true artist in an industry lacking true artistry.
Scott-Heron emerged in the early 1970s with albums such as What’s Going On and There’s A Riot Goin’ On. By 1970, there was a profound shift in the struggle for equality as the fight for civil rights gave way to the demand for Black Power. The Civil Rights Movement had lost its focus, being ripped apart by differing interest groups and ignored by a wartime US government. The voices of its leaders were silenced by jail or bullets.
Black popular music reflected this change. The voices on the radio stopped preaching brotherhood and togetherness and started reporting the facts, and the music got more aggressive. Leading the new attack was a new voice: articulate, uncompromising, and enraged. The voice held the light up to the country’s missteps and shook up an apathetic audience. The voice was Gil Scott-Heron’s. Scott-Heron was born in Chicago in 1949. He grew up in Lincoln, Tennessee and later the Chelsea neighborhood of the Bronx.
As a student, he admired the poetry of Langston Hughes and followed his footsteps by enrolling in Lincoln University. By age 20, he completed the novel The Vulture and the book of poetry, Small Talk At 125th & Lenox. The Vulture was an auspicious beginning, heralded by Essence as "a strong start for a writer with important things to say." In the 1970’s, Scott-Heron hooked up with Flying Dutchman records to produce several important albums including Pieces of Man and Free Will.
During the 1980s, for Arista label, Scott-Heron released twelve albums. Then, after a twelve-year break, he signed with TVT Records and released Spirits in 1993. The first cut of this album, "Message To The Messenger," is a warning to today’s rappers, urging them to take responsibility in their art and in their communities. Since then, he has played to sell-out crowds all over the world, performing at major festivals in England and the United States, including New York’s Central Park.