Saturday, June 25, 2011

'Winter In America' - a tribute

I first became aware of Gil Scott-Heron around the early to mid-nineties, while I was at university, although it was a while till I actually got where he was coming from. He was often listed on posters around town as playing at something like that year's Jazz Bop or some festival or other. Regrettably, I never did see him live. 

His recorded music, however, became something very special indeed. A combination of deeply soulful and funky tunes, with a killer voice and a unique ability to tell the truth in song - in ways that few others ever came close to matching. His final album came out last year (listen to it in full here) and although he was clearly sounding more frayed than in his earlier years, it was glorious to hear him producing something new and equally up to standard as the rest of his work. Turned out to be his swansong.

I now never will get the chance to see him live, but when I heard that he had died, I immediately wanted to pay some form of tribute to the man. The above video is the result. The audio track is taken from an audience recording of an NYC show from '88, shoved out into the public domain and left on The images are largely a combination of Creative Commons images sourced from Flickr and scraps of cutting-room-floor footage from the BBC's 'Digital Revolution' doc, plus a few other bits to pad it out.

The video is probably a little scrappy, both in audio quality and in the state of the editing (both feel free to diss it in the comments), but I hope that it can make for a slight contribution to the range of other content on YouTube that serves to give those that never listened to the man a chance to do so. I also hope that for those that know him or his work well, they'll feel that this humble clip is a worthy tribute, however slight.

RIP Gil.

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