|Gil Scott-Heron, pictured here performing in California last year, died at the age of 62 on Friday [Gallo/Getty]|
US poet and songwriter Gil Scott-Heron, credited with helping to inspire the development of rap, has died at the age of 62.
Doris C Nolan, a friend of Scott-Heron’s, told the Associated Press news agency on Friday that the artist died in the afternoon at St Luke’s Hospital in New York. He reportedly fell ill after returning from a trip to Europe.
“We’re all sort of shattered,” Nolan said.
Scott-Heron – best known for his spoken word piece ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, which critiqued mass media – used poetry as his vehicle for activism committed to the human rights of people around the world.
Scott-Heron was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 1, 1949. He was raised in Jackson, Tennessee, and in New York before attending college at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
His influence on rap was such that he sometimes was referred to as the Godfather of Rap, a title he rejected.
“If there was any individual initiative that I was responsible for it might have been that there was music in certain poems of mine, with complete progression and repeating ‘hooks’, which made them more like songs than just recitations with percussion,” he wrote in the introduction to his 1990 collection of poems, “Now and Then”.
After years of battling drug addiction, Scott-Heron released his most recent album, ‘I’m New Here’, to critical acclaim in 2010.
Last May, Scott-Heron was scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv, Israel.
In response, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel circulated a letter and started a Facebook campaign, citing Scott-Heron’s commitment to social justice, saying, “We call upon Mr Scott-Heron, a member of United Artists Against Apartheid in the 1980s and a featured singer on the breakthrough song ‘Don’t Play Sun City’, not to play apartheid Israel.”
The letter ended with, “Your performance in Israel would be the equivalent to having performed in Sun City during South Africa’s apartheid era… We hope that you will not play apartheid Israel.”
A few weeks later, Scott-Heron cancelled his Tel Aviv show.
In addition to the struggle against South African apartheid and for Palestinian rights, Scott-Heron’s activism ranged from Black liberation struggles to anti-nuclear campaigns.
Before turning to music, he was a novelist. At the age of 19 he published a murder mystery, titled “The Vulture”.