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Gil Scott-Heron Inducted into Rock Hall of Fame

The late singer/songwriter and poet will take his place in the Hall as an "early influencer" of hip-hop

Gil Scott-Heron
Gil Scott-Heron

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2021 inductees today, and among them is the pioneering singer/songwriter and poet Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011), 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. (In an indication of the unusually wide stylistic range of this year’s class of inductees, the other two 2021 winners of that award are the German electronic collective Kraftwerk and the Mississippi Delta bluesman Charley Patton.)

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.”

One of Scott-Heron’s most successful albums, 1975’s Winter in America, was originally released on Strata-East Records, the independent label founded in 1971 by Charles Tolliver and the late Stanley Cowell. Look for a 50th-anniversary oral history of that label, featuring appearances by Scott-Heron and many others, in the June issue of JazzTimes.

The 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on Saturday, October 30, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio, with a radio simulcast on SiriusXM’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Radio channel 310. The ceremony will air at a later date on HBO and stream on HBO Max.

Mac Randall

Mac Randall

Mac Randall has been the editor of JazzTimes since May 2018. Prior to that, he wrote regularly for the magazine. He has written about numerous genres of music for a wide variety of publications over the past 30 years, including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New York Observer, Mojo, and Guitar Aficionado, and he has worked on the editorial staffs of Musician, LAUNCH (now Yahoo! Music), Guitar One, Teaching Music, Music Alive!, and In Tune Monthly. He is the author of two books, Exit Music: The Radiohead Story and 101 Great Playlists. He lives in New York City.