Gil Scott-Heron, a prophetic genius who inspired a burgeoning generation of rap artists and musicians with his signature recording, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” recently joined the 2021 class of inductees at the 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Scott-Heron, who died in 2011, forged an impressive career as a poet, musician and author after releasing his first album in 1970.
During the induction ceremony, held Oct. 30 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, he posthumously joined other artists in the “Early Influencer” category, including Kraftwerk and Charley Patton.
His son, Rumal Rackley, who serves as the administrator of his father’s estate, shared his sentiments.
“We are thrilled by this honor,” Rackley said. “The ‘Early Influencer’ category reflects what Gil Scott-Heron’s work has meant and continues to mean to the music industry since his earliest days. His artistic blending of poetry and music were the precursor to rap. His crucial voice of protest deeply influenced Black music across genres, especially hip-hop.”
“He’s most famous for the iconic political protest song, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,’ which became an anthem for activists for equality and police reform in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. In addition, his poem, ‘Whitey on the Moon,’ recorded in 1970 and written to pan the excessive expense of the 1969 moon landing, trended on social media this summer during media coverage of the ‘billionaires space race.’”
Rackley also reflected on his father’s impressive canon of work.
“His body of work spans 50 years and the poetic words he spoke to promote peace and justice are as relevant today as they were back then,” Rackley said.
Indeed, Scott-Heron’s music and words remain in high demand including the use of “Whitey on the Moon” in the 2021 Emmy-nominated episode of the HBO blockbuster “Lovecraft Country.” Questlove also employed Scott-Heron’s work in the trailer for last summer’s blockbuster which he produced, “Summer of Soul ( . . . Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised).”
In addition, the prophetic genius and wordsmith won a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 while “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” secured a place in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014. He’s also featured in several exhibits at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In October, relatives, close associates and New York Park Service officials celebrated the ribbon-cutting and dedication of the newly-named Gil Scott-Heron Amphitheater in St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx.
“There’s a buzz that’s still in my heart and throughout the city of Cleveland,” Rackley said. “There are signs and billboards everywhere that pay tribute to his name, his life and his work. There are even a few murals in the Bronx that honor folks like James Baldwin and Maya Angelou, among others. So, he’s in great company. Our family is honored that he has been given such recognition – and it’s well-deserved.”
To be eligible, artists must have released their first record 25 years prior to induction. Other factors considered by an international voting body of more than 1,200 artists, current living inductees, historians and members of the music industry include: an artist’s musical influence on other artists; length and depth of career and the body of work; and innovation and superiority in style and technique.
Tina Turner, Carole King, The Go-Go’s, JAY-Z, Foo Fighters and Todd Rundgren were inducted in the Performer category; LL Cool J, Billy Preston and Randy Rhoads in the Musical Excellence category; and Clarence Avant for the Ahmet Ertegun Award.
The show will air on HBO on November 20 and on additional HBO networks and Sirius XM Radio.
For more information on Gil Scott-Heron’s life, contributions and continuing influence, visit gilscottherononline.com or @gilscottheron on Instagram.