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Brian Jackson Remembers Gil Scott-Heron

A tribute to the great jazz poet, by his early songwriting partner and keyboardist

Gil Scott-Heron
Gil Scott-Heron
Brian Jackson and Gil Scott-Heron
Gil Scott-Heron (right) and Brian Jackson in South Africa, 1998 (photo: Monique De Latour)

It was the fall of 1969. I was 16 and already in college. What the hell was I doing? I had skipped a grade-big mistake!-but it was too late to go home. I comforted myself by playing the piano; that’s where you’d find me, in one of the practice rooms. One day, a tall, lanky kid peered in and knocked on the glass window. I motioned for him to come in. He could hardly fit his Afro through the door. Seems he had heard about me on campus and thought he’d find out what I was all about.

The kid’s name made me chuckle. His given name sounded like breathing apparatus for fish, with a funny-sounding surname that reminded me of a bird in a suit of armor: Gil Scott-Heron. At any rate it didn’t take long for either of us to figure out what we were all about. We were about writing songs, and we did just that for the next 10 years.

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