However, having said that, the poetic interludes and his use of language in this book highlights why he became such a favorite of people who loved messages in their music. I was listening to "Winter in America" as I was reading this book and that added to the magic that was Gil Scott-Heron.
Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed this book but if anyone reads this without knowing anything else about Gil Scot-Heron they would not even have learned that the man had a serious drug problem. Drugs ruined Scott-Heron's career, led to multiple arrests and two jail terms and made him HIV positive - yet none of this is ever mentioned. Like the drug issue, his estranged relationships with his three children is given the silent treatment, and this would have been fine with me (family is private, and none of my damn business) except Scott-Heron attempts to put a positive spin on his refusal to recognize his son by spinning a very unlikely story that it was all just a misunderstanding.
If you don't know who Gil Scott-Heron was, I recommend the following: Go to a party, get drunk, have fun. Then, when you come home, it's 4 am or 5 am, have your post-party melancholy - open the beer you stole when you left, realise that it's already Sunday and you have to go to work or uni again soon, realise that you're alone and lonely, realise that you've grown apart from your family, realise that perhaps you were never that close in the first place, realise that you're incapable of closeness and warmth, realise that you'll die alone. That approach turns the book into a pastiche, if you're here to learn more about the man's life, chances are that you won't be helped. Our codes and slang and you learn how tremendously driven the man must have been when he was young - going to a private school on a scholarship, running odd jobs on the weekends and the nights to survive, then going to a famous university, only to drop out after a year to write a novel with no money or financial family support - then to actually finish that novel, get it to his dream publisher, have $2000 dollars advance 1960s money offered (!), then to walk away because the publisher wanted to change too much. Recommended for: people into Gil Scott-Heron or 70s/80s African-American music scene, people who come from broken homes Bonus quote!
"I hope this book reminds you that you can succeed" he writes, "that hope can arrive from unexpected quarters." Heron spent most of the 00s in jail - where a lot of this was written - after developing a crack addiction, and at some point contracting HIV which presumably led to his death last year. The publishers of The Last Holiday have done a great service to a great man's memory.
I was excited when I read that his memoir about touring with Stevie Wonder was released, but I wasn't sure what reading it would be like Listening to some of Mr. Scott-Heron's most famous work like Re-Ron and The Revolution Won't Be Televised is sort of like being heckled by a comedian: I'm laughing along with the fun, while at the same time I'm uncomfortable having the spotlight directly on me. It's interesting that Mr. Scott-Heron and my dad both had their childhood homes bulldozed to make way for a freeway bypass. Most people don't know this, but in 1980/1981 Stevie Wonder went on a 16 week tour campaigning for a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, culminating in a rally in Washington D.C. on his birthday. Gil Scott-Heron was only supposed to join the tour for a few weeks, but he joined permanently when Bob Marley got the cancer. (This is one of the meanings of the title, "The Last Holiday," by the way.) The connection between Gil Scott-Heron and Stevie Wonder seems obvious to me now, though I may not have made it before reading this book. Stevie is not generally known for being an activist these days, but now that I think about it even a glancing acquaintance with his work puts him much closer to The Last Poets and Mr. Scott-Heron.
I was surprised that he was on the radio and I was pleased, but when they followed with another Gil Scott song I knew that he had passed.
before his death in 2011, the great gil scott-heron was enjoying somewhat of a resurgence in popularity and success. as a new generation of listeners were discovering the poet/musician/protorapper's nearly two dozen albums, scott-heron emerged from a tumultuous decade marked by drugs and prison. around the same time, scott-heron began reworking the book as a first-person narrative, keeping the stevie wonder/mlk material, but expanding it in an autobiographical vein more inclusive of his childhood and early career. scott-heron omits almost entirely any insight into the last twenty years of his life, save for a brief chapter dealing with the passing of his mother (and the subsequent realizations he came to about his lifelong troubles dealing with love and intimacy).
The way this memoir was written is very disjointed at times, but strangely it gave The Last Holiday a certain emotional depth that, in a way, filled the void left by huge gaps in the story of his life that were left out. She criticized him freely throughout his entire life, and while he appreciated her honesty, he admits - in a crushingly eloquent and somber self-reflection that closes the book - that he never felt that he received true love from her, and consequently, never knew how to love others in the relationships he held in life. His life story, or what we are privy to, is truly a unique glimpse at a young, politically, emotionally, and especially intellectually aware young black man who would not, could not be manipulated into being anything else.
While Heron was writing this the ferment of black politics and student radicalism was coming to a head, and his second novel The Nigger Factory (1972) reflects these developments.