Founding Father Of Rap, Gil Scott-Heron, Dead

Songwriter, performer, novelist and poet Gil Scott-Heron died Friday at age 62. He was best known for a work he first recorded in 1970, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." Host Scott Simon has a remembrance.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Gil Scott-Heron has died. He was a songwriter, vocalist, novelist and poet, who was best-known for a song he recorded in 1970, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."

(Soundbite of song, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised")

Mr. GIL SCOTT-HERON (Songwriter, Vocalist, Novelist, Poet): The revolution will not be brought to you by the Schaeffer Award Theater and will not star Natalie Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia. The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal. The revolution will not get rid of the nubs. The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner. The revolution will not be televised, brother.

SIMON: Gil Scott-Heron's pointed lyrics punctured consumer culture and racial inequality in America. He's been called one of the godfathers of rap, and his lyrics inspired hip-hop artists who followed with their own messages. Mr. Scott-Heron told NPR last year that his strongest music let the meaning of the words stand out.

Mr. SCOTT-HERON: I thought that some of my best records was when there wasn't a lot of work being done on it, like "Winter in America" and "Secrets." And weren't a whole lot of people in the studio, just whole lot of good music got played, even if it was just a piano and a vocal or something like that.

(Soundbite of song, "Winter in America")

Mr. SCOTT-HERON: (Singing) Winter in America. Yes...

SIMON: Gil Scott-Heron spent his childhood in Tennessee. When he was a teenager, he and his single mother moved to the Bronx. At Lincoln University near Philadelphia, he met his long-time musical collaborator, Brian Jackson. Mr. Scott-Heron left school and music to devote himself to writing. And his first novel, "The Vulture," came out in 1970. That same year he reconnected with Brian Jackson and began his recording career.

But then came hard times. For much of the past decade, Gil Scott-Heron was in and out of jail on drug charges.

(Soundbite of song, "I'm New Here")

Mr. SCOTT-HERON: (Singing) No matter how far wrong you've gone, you can always turn around...

SIMON: Last year, Gil Scott-Heron released his first album in 16 years. The title carries more than a little irony: "I'm New Here." A man who inspired Kanye West, Mos Def, and Dr. Dre once again took center stage with his own words and voice.

Gil Scott-Heron died yesterday in New York of complications from an infection. He was 62. (Soundbite of song, "I'm New Here")

Mr. SCOTT-HERON: (Singing) Well, I'm new here, and I forget. Does that mean big or small? No matter how far wrong you've gone, you can always turn around...

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