Gil Scott-Heron was one of the most influential spoken-word poets of late 1960s and early 1970s. His post-beat poetry concerned a wide array of urban socio-economic, political, and racial issues. The ‘Godfather of Rap’ absorbed stylistic inspiration from Langston Hughes, Malcolm X and Huey Newton. A self-described “bluesologist” concerned with the traditions of blues and jazz music, he was born in Chicago, and grew up partly in Tennessee and the Bronx. Worldly and wordy from a very young age, he published his first volume of poetry at the age of 13. While attending Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, he started the band Black & Blues with musician/producer Brian Jackson.
The ‘revolution’ began when Heron recorded his well received debut album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox on Flying Dutchman Records in 1970. The album opened with the hip anthem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” which derives its name from a catchphrase used by African-American activists during the 1960s. The next year, Scott-Heron recorded Pieces of a Man, marking a shift to a funkier-sounding yet more structured album. In 1974, Scott-Heron and Jackson released their collaborative album Winter in America on Strata-East Records, which retrospectively became their most critically-acclaimed work. Winter in America delivered a combination of blues, soul and jazz with his rapping and often melismatic singing. These early works of Gil Scott-Heron were seminal to styles of music such as hip-hop, neo-soul, and contemporary jazz.