Gil Scott-Heron, Musician & Author, Dies At 62

Gil Scott Heron( — Gil Scott-Heron, widely considered one of the godfathers of rap with his piercing social and political prose, died on March 27, 2011 at the age of 62, after becoming ill following a trip to Europe. While the cause of death was undisclosed, his battle with cocaine was well known.

Scott-Heron was born in Chicago on April 1, 1949 and was raised in Jackson, TN., as well as in New York, before attending college at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Before turning to music, he was a novelist, at age 19, with the publication of “The Vulture,” a murder mystery. He came to prominence in the 1970s as black America was grappling with the violent losses of some of its most promising leaders and what seemed to many to be the broken promises of the civil rights movement.

Scott-Heron was known for work that reflected the fury of black America in the post-civil rights era and spoke to the social and political disparities in the country. His songs often had incendiary titles – “Home is Where the Hatred Is” or “Whitey on the Moon” – and through spoken word and song he tapped the frustration of the masses.

Though he was never a mainstream artist, he was an influential voice – so much so that his music was considered to be a precursor of rap and he influenced generations of hip-hop artists that would follow. When asked, however, he typically downplayed his integral role in the foundation of the genre.

“It’s winter in America, and all of the healers have been killed or been betrayed,” lamented Scott-Heron in the song “Winter in America.”