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Artist Profiles - Musician Gil Scott-Heron

Credit Guy Raz/NPR

Gilbert "Gil" Scott-Heron was a soul and jazz poet, musician and author, known primarily for his work as a spoken word performer in the 1970s and '80s. He was best known for the jazzy 1970 spoken-word classic "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." Born in Chicago in April, 1949, Gil Scott-Heron was raised in Tennessee and then moved to New York as a teenager. Keen on education and writing, Scott-Heron attended Pennsylvania's Lincoln University (the alma mater of his hero, Langston Hughes), and in 1968 published the novel The Vulture.

His collaborative efforts with musician Brian Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues, and soul, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles by Scott-Heron. His own term for himself was "bluesologist", which he defined as "a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues." His music, most notably on Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970s, influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul.

Scott-Heron recorded songs including "Angel Dust," "The Bottle" and "Whitey On the Moon." Between 1982 and 1994 Gil Scott-Heron toured and performed, but released only two albums. He was arrested in 2001 for possession of illegal drugs and spent the next several years in and out of jail for drugs and parole violations. Gil Scott-Heron bounced back in 2010 with I'm New Here, his first album in more than fifteen years.

He died in May, 2011.