When Gil Scott-Heron passed away last Friday, it was, surprisingly, a bit of a shock. I say surprisingly because a few years ago it would have seemed an inevitability. The legendary spoken-word performer, hip-hop progenitor, and soul musician, had struggled with drug abuse for virtually his entire career and news had spread that he was HIV-positive. Yet, the stream of creativity out of Gil Scott-Heron since 2010's excellent comeback I’m New Here had eclipsed the private maladies he no doubt still suffered with. Since that record's release, Scott-Heron had stayed in the public eye due to superb bass-heavy remixing from Jamie xx (see “NY Is Killing Me,” below), and his music had reached broad new audiences due to the epic sample used to close My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Ten years before, Scott-Heron was something of a footnote celebrated mostly by music nerds, and best known via James Murphy’s now indelible (and literal) shout-out: “Gil! Scott! Heron!” Instead of a burned-out relic, Gil Scott-Heron managed to go out at the forefront of cultural consciousness—not as a sob story, but as a still-vital legend. While this doesn't make his death any less sad, or make us wonder what other music he had left in him, it does say something that he reached as many people as he did. And for those of you who have yet to discover Gil Scott-Heron for yourselves, get to googling. There’s 40 years of music out there to remember him by, and he was certainly one of the greats.
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx—We're New Here
"NY Is Killing Me"
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