The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has announced its 2021 inductees, and among them is the pioneering singer/songwriter and poet Gil Scott-Heron who made socially and politically potent music in the 1970s that fused jazz with R&B and who—although he preferred to refer to himself as a “bluesologist”—is widely regarded as one of the earliest rappers.
Recognizing Scott-Heron’s seminal role in the development of hip-hop, the Rock Hall honored him with an Early Influencer Award.
Scott-Heron is one of only a small number of Rock Hall inductees (so far) to have strong jazz connections. Over the 35 years of its existence, the Hall has also inducted Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Nat “King” Cole, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Dr. John, Quincy Jones, Nina Simone, and Dinah Washington. Only Charles, Davis, Dr. John, and Simone were inducted as performers; the others received either the same Early Influencer honor as Scott-Heron or (in Jones’ case) the Ahmet Ertegun Award for music-industry professionals.
In collaboration with keyboardist/songwriter Brian Jackson, Scott-Heron wrote and recorded 10 albums between 1971 and 1980 that featured a string of hugely influential songs, including “Pieces of a Man,” “Lady Day and John Coltrane,” “Home Is Where the Hatred Is,” “The Bottle,” “Johannesburg,” “Angel Dust,” “We Almost Lost Detroit,” and—the track he remains best known for—”The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”
Scott-Heron remained active until his death, and in 2010 released his first new album in 16 years, entitled I’m New Here. A memoir he had been working on for years up to the time of his death, The Last Holiday, was published posthumously in January 2012. Scott-Heron received a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He also is included in the exhibits at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) that officially opened on September 24, 2016, on the National Mall, and in an NMAAHC publication, Dream a World Anew.
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