Ode to Gil Scott Heron

Born on April 1st, 1949, in that most important of electronic cities, Chicago, it was with some seriously heavy hearts we learnt that he had died on May 27th, 2011, in New York. But despite coming of age during an era well before most people had heard of sequenced music, his work has mirrored the development of hip hop, disco, house, dubstep, downbeat, and more.

A living legend in life, now Gil Scott Heron’s haunting vocal delivery will never grace another politicised soundtrack it’s worryingly clear musicians like him only really come along once in a generation. A lifetime spent on the margins of the mainstream, and as a thorn in the side of many an American administration has gifted us a catalogue of work equally powerful in terms of message when compared to the often groundbreaking arrangements. At the risk of harping on for too long, he was a brilliant poet and valuable anti-corporate truth-speaker. So then, introductions over, here’s a short glimpse at his career from a very Plain & Simple perspective. Enjoy, then check out more here.


Gil Scott Heron / The Revolution Will Not Be Televised / 1970 / Flying Dutchman

Come on, do we really need to explain why this is embedded? No, didn’t think so. Kicking off a cult career, this is possibly Heron’s finest moment, not that the next four decades weren’t worthwhile.


Gil Scott Heron / The Bottle/ 1974 / Arista

A damn fine funk soul workout that sees the man showcase more traditional fare set to his continued narrative of inequality, race, and an increasingly rotten American pie. Infinitely listenable, fantastically quotable.



Gil Scott Heron / B Movie / 1981 / Arista

Really one of the first hip hop interludes, though extended over an intimidating but satisfying 12-minutes. The opening line was also sampled by Ame for the track Ojomo, which is a nice reference for us to get in.


Gil Scott Heron / Space Shuttle (Deep Club Dub) / 1990 / Castle Music

Acid sounds arrived and the subject of our tribute marked two decades as a messenger for all the stuff politicians didn’t want to hear. It’s not a bad track either, though sampling Mr Fingers will always be quite good.


Gil Scott Heron / Me & the Devil / XL / 2010

In what could be the most chilling of all his stories this one had movie soundtrack written all over it, and displayed Heron’s ability to move with the musical times in a way that made audible sense.

Gil Scott Heron / New York Is Killing Me / XL 2011

In an age in which lo-fi live electronic sounds are everywhere (see How To Dress Well, James Blake etc) this is pretty damn defining. Again the only comment to make is that real talent never wanes.


Gil Scott Heron & Jamie XX / New York Is Killing Me / XL, Young Turks/ 2011

There’s something darkly evocative about Jamie XX’s finest moment to date, and Heron’s final single while alive. Not only do those lyrical loops stay with you forever, it’s causes absolute devastation on the dancefloor.