Friday, May 27, 2011

Thank you, Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron, poet, was the voice of a people, the conscience of a nation, a progenitor of rap and hip hop, and political activist. But to me, most of all, he was an incredible musician. Brilliant composer, songwriter, arranger, pianist and bandleader. His deeply powerful voice cried out in pain, emanated wisdom, and soared with joy. From dark tales of the needle to incisive political commentary, to his numerous ballads -- often poignant paens to family, dear friends, and ancestors -- to celebratory grooves, Gil effortlessly combined gospel, funk, jazz, and blues into something irresistibly soulful and relentlessly righteous. This was music that didn't tell you that all was right with the world, but that you were right to be in the world. You mattered. We all matter and we all mattered to him. His words took on injustice, inhumanity, inequality, imbalance, ignorance and indifference. He was a serious man, but a serious man with a twinkle in his eye. I didn't know him personally, but at least in concert, there was always a twinkle. He voice could thunder, the music could roar, anger could permeate a lyric; but the connection to his listeners was always warm, always loving, always respectful. He was a man who walked with a grace and charisma one doesn't often see. He carried a profound dignity. Perhaps all the more remarkable considering details of his later life not appropriately focused upon now -- or maybe ever.

He was a fully conscious agent of his own history, a spirit pouring out of his past like liquid spilling into vessels of the present. He knew exactly where he was and he knew exactly where he came from. His strength, his wisdom, his music -- will resonate and inspire me the rest of my days on this rock. Eyes wide open.

I know that many reading this are unaware of this man's music. I urge anyone remotely affected by the words I scribbled above to take the time to listen to a wonderful piece of music. Hear every word and feel every note. I promise you it'll be worth five minutes of your time.

Godspeed, Gil.

Michael Sokolowski

Pieces of a Man