Gil Scott-Heron Dies: Rhymes For La Revolución

Gil Scott-Heron on the cover of The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron, the album on which "Jose Campos Torres" was released.

Gil Scott-Heron on the cover of The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron, the album on which "Jose Campos Torres" was released. Courtesy of Arista Records hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Arista Records

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Vocalist and activist Gil Scott-Heron, called one of the padrinos of rap for his politically charged spoken word performances in the '70s, died yesterday at a Manhattan hospital. He was 62 years old.

Scott-Heron ridiculed society's blatant consumerism in his best known track, 1971's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." In 1978 he pointed his wrath and his words toward the abuse of Latinos in the moving "Poem For Jose Campos Torres." Torres, a U.S. Army vet, was beaten and died while in the custody of the Houston police department, which at the time had been under national scrutiny for corruption.

NOTE: This track contains language that may not be suitable for children

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During my college years in the late '70s, it was very common to see Scott-Heron's bearded face staring out from album stacks of fellow students in California. His messages of self-determination and resistance to racism reached across racial lines and were popular among both blacks and Latinos.

To my ears, Scott-Heron and longtime musical collaborator Brian Jackson fell firmly in the tradition of Latin American performers like Victor Jara, Mercedes Sosa and many others who used music to take on societal injustices and governments.

Scott-Heron also shares with them the legacy that it can be just as effective — if not more so — to pick up a pen and write a song rather than taking up arms to effect change.

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English / Spanish

Muere Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron on the cover of The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron, the album on which "Jose Campos Torres" was released.

Gil Scott-Heron on the cover of The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron, the album on which "Jose Campos Torres" was released. Courtesy of Arista Records hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Arista Records

El vocalista y activista Gil Scott-Heron has fallecido. Heron es considerado uno de los padrinos del rap por sus recitales de poesías habladas durante la década de 1970. Sus obras son sumamente políticas, y examinan los temas sociales de la era. Murió ayer en un hospital de Manhattan. Tenía 62 años.

En "La Revolución No Será Televisada" (1971), una de sus obras más conocidas, Scott-Heron ridiculizó el consumismo excesivo de la sociedad. En 1978, enfocó su arte en el abuso hacia los latinos, en la conmovedora obra "Poema Para José Campos Torres." Torres, un veterano del ejército norteamericano, fue asesinado a golpes por la policía de Houston, Texas, durante una época en la cual ese departamento de policía estaba acusado de corrupción.

Atención: Este audio contiene lenguaje que puede ser inapropiado para menores de edad.

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Durante mis años universitarios en California, a fines de la década de 1970, era muy común ver la cara barbuda de Scott-Heron pegada en las carátulas de los álbumes. Su mensaje de auto-determinación y su lucha contra el racismo inspiró a todos, y era sumamente popular entre los afroamericanos y latinos.

Siempre sentí que Scott-Heron y su colaborador musical Brian Jackson, tomaban de la fuerte tradición latinoamericana de usar música para la protesta social y política, ejemplificada por cantautores como Víctor Jara y Mercedes Sosa, entre otros.

Scott-Heron también comparte con ellos un legado importante: el de usar una lapicera y un papel, en vez de un arma, para lograr cambios en nuestra sociedad.

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