Gil Scott-HeronJazz Poet, Soul Troubadour
Spoken-word performances with groove-conscious jazz and R&B
Gil Scott-Heron emerged at the tail end of the 1960s as a poet who echoed both the Beats and the streets. Chicago-born Scott-Heron was living in the Bronx when his writing earned him a full scholarship to the prestigious Fieldston School. Later, in college, he pursued both writing and music, forming a band with keyboardist Brian Jackson and writing two novels. In 1970, Scott-Heron became a recording artist, backing his spoken-word performances with groove-conscious jazz and R&B, with Jackson emerging as his key co-conspirator. His work was always politically charged, but he came at the issues of the day from a personal perspective. As he became more musically adept, he did more singing and less speaking, but his early work cemented his latter-day reputation as one of rap's originators. By the 2000s, Scott-Heron had dipped below the radar, stuck in a vicious circle of drug abuse and prison stints, but in 2010 he released I'm New Here, his first album of new material since 1994's Spirits.