hen he first told America in 1970 that “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” after writing it in 1968 at age 19, Gil Scott-Heron set the stage for what would become part of the musical and poetic soundtrack for revolutionaries worldwide. And he didn’t stop until 40 years later.
Gilbert “Gil” Scott-Heron was born April 1, 1949 in Chicago to Jamaican soccer star Giles “The Black Arrow” Heron and opera singer/teacher Robert (yes, “Robert,” as named by her father Robert), better known as Bobbie, Scott-Heron. When he was two, his parents separated after his father moved to Scotland. Immediately following the separation, Gil’s mother moved to Puerto Rico to teach. Before going, she sent him to Tennessee to live with her mother, a dignified and religious woman, who was pivotal in creating the man we know of today. Lillie, as she was called, loved gospel music.
It wasn’t just music that Lillie brought into his life. It was also Black consciousness. She introduced him to the literary artistry and social activism of Langston Hughes, whose work would become a motivating force in Gil’s life.
She explained to him what racism means. She became his rock and inspiration. And he loved her dearly for that. One day in 1962 when he was 12, he noticed she had not come downstairs for breakfast, so he went up to wake her. She had died in her sleep.
His mother returned to New York and moved them into a Bronx apartment. But when she no longer could afford the rent there, she had to relocate them to a public housing project in the run-down Chelsea section of Manhattan.