Funeral Services Announced for Gil Scott-Heron and More (w/Update)

UPDATE (9:3o a.m., CDT):

The public viewing of Scott-Heron’s body will occur after the memorial service today at the Riverside Church.  It will occur on Friday evening between 6-9 p.m. at the Campbell funeral home.

My apologies; Black America Web was not specific, and in my experience, usually a viewing or wake occurs before the service. But going against convention is just like Gil.


How Gil explained the break-up of his marriage to his little daughter, Gia Scott-Heron, who is now an adult, possibly the eldest of his three children.  It’s also apparent that Scott-Heron, despite his shortcomings, did remain in contact with his children.

This was over at Black America Web:

A memorial service has been scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Riverside Church in New York City for poet-musician-teacher-singer Gil Scott-Heron, who died last Friday in New York at the age of 62.

A public viewing also is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home at 81st Street and Madison Avenue.

I know where all these locations are. Harlem must be buzzing big time. This is going to be some funeral.

The same story presents an outpouring of love and reminiscence about Scott-Heron. Everyone, it appears, has a “Gil Scott-Heron story.” Just because he had substance abuse issues does not mean that he did not have a creative impact on his fans, friends, and family, and ultimately, black and American culture. I am sorry that he did not value his life enough to overcome his demons, but I am glad that he was here. He was, simply, a jewel in the rough.

When news broke last week that Scott-Heron had died, reporters, music and cultural critics who wrote about him were bombarded with emails and calls from people wanting to tell their “Gil story.” People who posted personal remembrances on their Facebook pages have long strings on their discussion boards from people who had only listened to his records, to those who had seen him in concert, to those who met/interviewed/hung out with/worked with/took a class from him and felt compelled to share their memories.

Days later, people continue to reach out to tell their stories about Scott-Heron. In death, he has triggered an outpouring of love on a scale that normally seems reserved for superstars.

A.L. Nielson, English professor at Pennsylvania State University, took two creative writing courses from Scott-Heron at Federal City College in Washington, D.C. (now part of the University of the District of Columbia) in the early ‘70s and he said Scott-Heron left “a remarkable legacy.”

“The first class, there were hardly any students. By the second, people had an idea who he was and it was full. He was a year and a half older than me and he had written one novel, one poetry book and had three LPs. He already had his master’s from Johns Hopkins. What impressed me was the incredible range of literature he knew. Also, he was interested in pop modern writing. I think he was one of the best creative writing teachers I’ve seen and I’ve seen a lot of them. People forget what a good literary writer he was. You don’t find him in many anthologies, but he was a good poet.”

“We don’t want to just see him as a guy on stage. No, he was a teacher, a songwriter…He was multi-talented,” said E. Ethelbert Miller, a poet and writer and board chair for the Institute for Policy Studies. “That’s why I say on my blog I hope Gil Scott-Heron will be televised as a full man and not reduced to pieces of a man.”

But the stage is indeed calling, and his musical descendants are paying tribute as well:

Tributes have been pouring in from around the world from musicians and friends of the poet and music pioneer Gil Scott-Heron, who died on Friday at 62. Eminem, Talib Kweli and Snoop Dogg were among the rappers who acknowledged Mr. Scott-Heron’s early influence on hip-hop and black protest culture after hearing the news, according to BBC News. The cause of death was not immediately known, though The Associated Press reported that Mr. Scott-Heron had become ill after returning from a trip to Europe. Chuck D of Public Enemy posted on Twitter, “We do what we do and how we do because of you.” Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah wrote: “Salute Gil Scott-Heron for his wisdom and poetry! May he rest in paradise.” Eminem wrote on Twitter: “RIP Gil Scott-Heron. He influenced all of hip-hop.” Cee Lo Green recognized “the god Gil Scott,” while Talib Kweli said he “completely influenced me as an artist.” The politically outspoken rapper Michael Franti said Mr. Scott-Heron’s talent was his ability to “make us think about the world in a different way.” Richard Russell, who produced and released Mr. Scott-Heron’s final album, “I’m New Here in 2010,” described him as “a master lyricist, singer, orator and keyboard player.” Lemn Sissay, a friend of Mr. Scott-Heron’s who produced a documentary on his work, told the BBC that he was “a polymath” who “spoke crucially of the issues of his people.”

The New York Jewish Week also has an interesting piece on “The Schooling of Gil Scott-Heron,” who was a graduate of the exclusive Fieldston School in Riverdale, and how this experience shaped the man he became.

While a cause of death has yet to be announced, and his crack addiction strongly suspected as a contributing factor, Scott-Heron also said that he was HIV positive. The New York Times said that:

Complete information about Mr. Scott-Heron’s survivors was not immediately available, but Mr. Byng, his publisher, said that they included a half-brother, Denis Scott-Heron; a son, Rumal; and two daughters, Gia Scott-Heron and Che Newton.

If you are in or close to New York, go see him for the last time and pay your respects, even if you merely stand outside the church. Forget the crowds and where you might have to park. Take a subway (possibly an A train) and understand that you will not be alone in your sorrow that he is gone.

~ by blksista on June 1, 2011.

2 Responses to “Funeral Services Announced for Gil Scott-Heron and More (w/Update)”

  1. My goodness. I put on Twitter if any one had information on his Funeral. I missed it..didn’t think it would be so far after his passing. I wish it had been on Twitter, that is really what we would call meaningful social media. I am disappointed.


  2. I love your article! The best i’ve read about my icon, GSH. You’ve compiled so much about the man, his policy, his music, his life, his love, his history.

    The whole world should know about this man! You’ve helped bring that closer to being!

    Thank you!


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