Soul Icon Scott-Heron Dead At 62

click image to enlarge
May 27, 2011 | 11:50pm EST

Legendary jazz and soul musician Gil Scott-Heron has died at the age of 62.
The iconic artist, poet and activist passed away in New York on Friday afternoon after falling sick following a trip to Europe.

Born in Chicago, Illinois to Jamaican soccer player Gilbert Heron and singer Bobbie Scott, the star spent his early years in Jackson, Tennessee before moving to the Big Apple with his mother following his parents’ divorce.

He began his recording career in 1970 with his debut album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, a disc containing songs about social and political topics of the time, including the spoken-word piece The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The track, which was regularly used for black power campaigns, is credited with influencing some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including rappers Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Kanye West, who sampled Scott-Heron on his latest, critically-acclaimed album My Beautiful Twisted Dark Fantasy.

His other notable works include 1971 release Pieces of a Man and 1974’s Winter in America, projects which saw him reteam with his long-time collaborator, pianist Brian Johnson.

Scott-Heron took a lengthy hiatus in the 1980s before making a comeback in 1994 with Spirits. He took another long break before releasing 2010’s I’m New Here, his first new album in 16 years.

He also published five books of poetry and musings over the years, while he was thought to be putting the final touches to his next book, The Last Holiday, at the time of his death.

The artist, who was reported to be HIV positive, struggled with drug abuse in the latter part of his life and served time behind bars for cocaine possession in 2001. He spent the next few years in and out of jail as he battled his personal demons.

Tributes have poured in for the late musician with a host of big names taking to to remember Scott-Heron.

R&B star Usher writes, “I just learned of the lost of a very important poet…R.I.P. Gil Scott Heron. The revolution will be live!!”, while rapper Kweli states, “wow. The rest of my night I’m gonna listen to Gil Scot (sic) Heron. We love you brother. We will miss you. RIP.”

The Roots drummer Ahmir ‘?uestlove’ Thompson simply tweets, “Damn Gil. Rip”, and singer/DJ Solange Knowles writes, “Gil Scott Heron. U (sic) will be missed and remembered.”