Gil Scott-Heron remembered by XL Recordings boss Richard Russell

“The last conversation I had with Gil Scott-Heron was on March 19 2011. He rang me on a Saturday, the day after my birthday, I answered his call whilst browsing in Foyles bookshop in London. We spoke for an hour,” recalls London-based independent label XL Recordings head honcho Richard Russell following the news of the poet and musician’s unexpected death on Friday, May 27, having worked closely with him in producing and releasing his last album, I’m New Here (2010).

“Conversation like this with GiI were a gift. He was a father figure of sorts to me, and I learnt a huge amount of him. Gil was not perfect in his own life. But neither is anyone else. And he judged no one. He had a fierce intelligence, and a way with words which was untouchable; an incredible sense of humour and a gentleness and humanity that was unique to him,” Richard writes.

“Gil shunned all the trappings of fame and success. He could have had all those things. But he was greater than that. He seemed wholly uninterested in money. To my knowledge he never accepted an award. He always wanted everyone else to receive credit for their work. He is the only artist I’ve ever worked with who requested that the studio engineers photo be given equal prominence to his own on his website…”

Judging from the outpouring of tributes and online commentary over the past day since Scott-Heron’s death was announced, the following of Richard’s words will ring true for many:

“Gil meant a massive amount to me, as he did to so many people. His talent was immense. He was a a master lyricist, singer, orator, and keyboard player. His spirit was immense. He channeled something that people derived huge benefit from.”

Rest in peace, Gil Scott-Heron.

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