Skip to content

Hip-Hop Pioneer Gil Scott-Heron Dies at 62

Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron – the American musician and poet whose work inspired hip-hop artists ranging from Public Enemy to Kanye West – died Friday in New York City. Scott-Heron passed away at St. Luke’s Hospital after becoming sick when he returned from a European trip, according to the Associated Press. He was 62.

Dubbed the Godfather of Rap, a title he often shunned, Scott-Heron released 15 albums over his 31-year career, including ten with his longtime collaborator Brian Jackson. He earned a rep for creating fiercely political music, which addressed the black experience in America, especially on his most famous track, 1970’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Scott-Heron also published five books of poetry and fiction, including the 1970 mystery novel The Vulture.

In his later years, Scott-Heron battled drug addiction: He served two years in prison starting in 2001 for cocaine possession, and returned to jail for a parole violation in 2006. Still, he continued to record music after his release, including last year’s noteworthy comeback album I’m New Here, which was later remixed by the xx’s Jamie xx.

Born in 1949 in Chicago, Scott-Heron was raised by his grandmother in Jackson, TN. After studying at Lincoln University, where he met Jackson, Scott-Heron relocated to New York City, where he lived the rest of his life.

The reaction to Scott-Heron’s death among the music community was swift. “We do what we do and how we do because of you,” Chuck D posted on his Twitter, adding that he was working on new music with Scott-Heron.

Eminem, meanwhile, noted that he influenced “all of hip-hop,” while Talib Kweli said, “[Scott-Heron’s death] got me all f*cked up. I haven’t felt like this inna minute.”

To honor Scott-Heron’s death, SPIN looks back on his long career with five of his best tracks. Check them out below.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” 1970

“Pieces of a Man,” 1971

“Whitey on the Moon,” 1970

“The Bottle,” 1974

“Me and the Devil,” 2010