The influential artist died on Friday at a New York hospital.
The Chicago-born performer was known as the “Godfather of Rap” – a term he disliked – for his groundbreaking spoken word performances set to music. Others also referred to him as the “black Bob Dylan”, but he preferred to call himself a bluesologist.
Gil Scott-Heron’s most famous songs include The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, a fierce protest poem he set to music in 1970. His work was often, but not always, powerfully political, standing up as the voice of black America and addressing issues like racism, poverty, and social injustice. He was one of the first artists to address apartheid in his music.
RIP to one of tha greats, Gil Scott-Heron. Rapper Snoop Dogg
He recorded more than a dozen albums and his work was coloured by his own experiences of family breakdown, alcoholism, and heroin addiction. He spent time in jail for drug possession and was HIV positive, and confronted his problems frankly in some of his songs.
But he kept working, releasing a re-mixed version of his 2010 album – renamed We’re New Here – with Jamie Smith of The xx earlier this year.
US rappers Snoop Dogg and Public Enemy’s Chuck D both tweeted their sadness at Scott-Heron’s death.
Snoop Dogg wrote: “RIP to one of tha greats, Gil Scott-Heron” and Chuck D wrote: “RIP GSH…and we do what we do and how we do because of you. And to those that don’t know tip your hat with a hand over your heart & recognize.”
DJ and producer Jazzie B told Channel 4 News that Scott-Heron was a huge influence.
“Anybody of my generation would have loved Gil Scott,” he said.
“He paved the way for a lot of music from a black urban culture point of view.”