- Terelle Jerricks
By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer
More than twenty remarkable musicians and vocalists performed in tribute to Gil Scott-Heron last Friday on July 20. But there were two artist’s that were closest to these fans heart’s: Gil’s daughter and spoken word artist Gia Scott-Heron and his long- time collaborator Brian Jackson, on keys, piano and flute.
With the audience and the stage separated by a large calming pool of water, DJ Jeremy Sole from behind his turntables set the supremely loving tone of the evening, performing a narrative
exemplifying his deep respect and admiration for Scott-Heron. He spoke of the artist’s commitment to “justice for all” and how he was true to the process of democracy, reciting a list of his songs and poetry reflecting that vein such as “Johannesburg,” “A Toast to the People” and “Alien Hold On To Your Dreams.”
It was still hot when the performances began, cooling as the evening and wore on. Each singer, each performance, and each song all captured the essence of the man. Having Brian Jackson in the house kept the whole show grounded. The irresistible sound and feeling of his and the late Scott-Heron’s musical collaborations were translated into this show impeccably. Soloist Nailah Porter delivered an ethereal number called “You and Me Together.” It was a soft evocative song that likely expressed the unspoken wish of what was unmistakably family in the amphitheater that night; we wish he was still here. They certainly did right by Gil Scott-Heron’s legacy.
Fans were treated to an evening of classic songs and spoken-word pieces from Scott-Heron’s discography–pieces like, “I Think I’ll Call it Morning From Now On,” and the downright jam “Home Is Where the Hatred Is.” Love was flowing throughout and devotees were grooving, dancing, smiling and laughing.
The groove fest really got hot when an old Saturday Night Live clip flashed on the big screen of Richard Pryor introducing Scott-Heron on Saturday Night Live on December 13, 1975 when he introduced “Johannesburg.” In call and response fashion, the people were moved when they were called with the phrase, “What’s the word? Everyone on their feet responded, “Johannesburg!” as they partied through the night.
After the Gia’s performance of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, she addressed the audience and shared that the last time she performed the poem was in front of her father when he was alive. He told her it was a really good poem, and really nice. She went on to say that she just received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys and she feels as though that is her pat on the back from her dad, a father letting his child know he’s proud of her.
After the show I had a brief moment to actually speak to Gia, it was totally unexpected. The first thing I thought to ask her was if there were anything she’d like to say on behalf of her father. Gia told me “My daddy speaks for himself but my Daddy’s words will live on and not be forgotten. The messages will be carried on to a new generation.” She touchingly expressed that she was so proud to be able to say that.
The night came to a close with everyone on stage together in a presentation of Heron’s poignant “The Bottle,” showcasing an invigorating combination of Brian Jackson’s flute with African drums. The band was having as much fun as the crowd, images of Gil flashed on the big screen, the water fountain shot up beams of iridescent green H2o behind the stage, everyone grooving to the tribal drums, culminating in a celebratory crescendo of Gil Scott-Heron as humanitarian, poet, author, singer, musician, truth teller, inspiration and legend.
It was a magical night and it felt so good to know that there are still so many seekers of truth, those of us who know we need to speak up when things are wrong and work together to make it a better day for everyone.
Peace go with you, Brother!