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Gil Scott-Heron: An Excerpt From “The Last Holiday”

Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson
Gil Scott-Heron (left) and collaborator Brian Jackson in Washington, D.C., 1970 (photo: Gary Price)
Gil Scott-Heron
Gil Scott-Heron, late 1970s (photo: Gary Price)
Pieces of a Man
Gil Scott-Heron's "Pieces of a Man," 1971

When Gil Scott-Heron died in May of last year, he left behind many things: one of the most influential legacies in American music, a slew of damaged relationships, and a perplexing memoir entitled The Last Holiday. In this exclusive excerpt, the poet, author and singer-songwriter details the beginnings of his recording career and the sessions behind the 1971 album that made him an icon, Pieces of a Man.

In 1970, at the end of a tumultuous school year at Lincoln University, my collaborator Brian Jackson and I had a chance to write things not strictly for our group Black & Blues, which had lost two or three people to graduation. And when I went home for the summer, I went to see a man named Bob Thiele, who had started his own record label called Flying Dutchman. Bob had produced Coltrane and knew Archie Shepp; he had made major contributions in the jazz world. And even though I was never really into the Beat poets, I knew he had also produced some Jack Kerouac recordings.

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