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Singer-rapper Gil Scott-Heron dies at 62

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From the AP:

Long before Public Enemy urged the need to Fight the Power or N.W.A. offered a crude rebuke of the police, Gil Scott-Heron was articulating the rage and the disillusionment of the black masses through song and spoken word.

Scott-Heron, widely considered one of the godfathers of rap with his piercing social and political prose laid against the backdrop of minimalist percussion, flute and other instrumentation, died on Friday at age 62. His was a life full of groundbreaking, revolutionary music and personal turmoil that included a battle with crack cocaine and stints behind bars in his later years.

Musician and singer Michael Franti, who also is known for work that has examined racial and social injustices, perhaps summed up the dichotomy of Scott-Heron in a statement Saturday that described him as "a genius and a junkie."

Scott-Heron recorded the song that would make him famous, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, which critiqued mass media, for the album 125th and Lenox in Harlem in the 1970s. He followed up that recording with more than a dozen albums, collaborating mostly with musician Brian Jackson.

In later years, he would become known more for his battle with drugs such as crack cocaine than his music. His addiction led to stints in jail and a general decline: In a 2008 interview with New York magazine, he said he had been living with HIV for years, but he still continued to perform and put out music; his last album, which came out this year, was a collaboration with artist Jamie xx, We're Still Here, a reworking of Scott-Heron's acclaimed I'm New Here, which was released in 2010.

[Photo: Scott-Heron in 1984. AP]

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[Last modified: Monday, May 30, 2011 2:00pm]

    

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