Sunday, 29 May 2011

"PIECES OF A MAN"- Brief notes on departed Gil Scott-Heron

Meeting the well known and famous has various sides. Could be fuelling the adulation and getting inspired. For me meeting Gil Scott Heron for the first time in 1987 (Bonn, Germany) then often when he came to London was not that dramatic. He was just a "regular" guy. Tall, self confident but very normal.
No airs, no innuendos...
I get this feeling whenever I meet extraordinarily gifted people in person. No intimidation, no awkwardness...because they are at ease with themselves. Any other tale tell signs would mean tilt the balance. They in turn inspire you like a good friend or favourite family member would.
It is like watching great footballers Lionel Messi and Zinedine Zidane. Totally comfortable with their genius...
Meeting Mwalimu Julius Nyerere in Rio in 1991 was similar. Nyerere was bigger than Mandela in his prime, but in person so, so easy going, like an old pal.
"We are not super stars..." Gil Scott Heron said seriously when I made a joke to the effect. This was manifest in the way he spoke. Always using the pronoun "we" instead of "I" or "me"...

Gil Scott-Heron performing with his Amnesia Express band @ Jazz Cafe, Camden Town, London, early 1999. Pic by F Macha

And this wasn't a modest gesture, Gil Scott-Heron did not see himself as some kind of celebrity; which he was and has been to us, his fans...
No wonder not many knew him and his music; despite being been labelled "Godfather of Rap"...Gil Scott Heron wasn't your usual mainstream musician; his style, his lyrics, his content had a purpose.A musician who is constantly saying truths and pointing melodic fingers and piano chops at our social political economic lies and injustice is hardly going to be mainstream. Honesty is rarely accepted worldwide.
I once asked him if he was not scared of those powerful who he is constantly chiding in his records.
"Only fear for those closely associated to me..."
He shrugged and reminded me of Bob Marley saying once: "My life is not important. The people are more important. Without the people my life has no meaning..."
These are individuals on a mission.
They want things to be better for all of us.
Gil Scott Heron's death left me gutted but at the same time I can feel sunshine on leaves, rooftops, cheeks and roads of this universe. Why? He left so many rich albums and said so much during his 62 years life. In other words he did his duty. Everyone has their destiny.
We have to contribute to Mother universe...

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