Gil Scott-Heron Honored by Kanye West at Harlem Memorial Service

(Photo courtesy of Billboard)

by Alex Damashek, N.Y.
Billboard.com

Kanye West was among those who paid respect to spoken word artist and “bluesologist” Gil Scott-Heron, who passed away at age 62 last week, at a memorial service in Harlem’s Riverside Church last Thursday (June 2).

The service, which was open to the public, closed with West performing an Auto-Tuned yet emotional rendition of of “Lost In The World” — the song from his latest album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and one that samples the refrain, “Who will survive in America?” from Scott-Heron’s well-known poem, “Comment #1.”

In addition to West, a trio of Scott-Heron’s longtime backing musicians gave a spirited performance of the artist’s songs “Better Days Ahead” and “The Bottle,” while the audience clapped along.

Also in attendance at the service were Grammy-winning producer Malcolm Cecil, Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets, Scott-Heron’s wife of 10 years Brenda Sykes, daughter Gia-Scott Heron and assorted family and friends. Scott-Heron’s eulogy was read by Sykes, who shared her intimate story of meeting Scott-Heron: the couple was introduced by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was apparently a friend and high school rival of Scott-Heron’s (Heron played for Dewitt Clinton High in the Bronx as a teen).

Also a poet, Scott-Heron’s daughter Gia read an inspired piece of prose she’d written for her father called “Time” and sang a stirring rendition of “The Rose” by Amanda McBroom, popularized by Bette Midler. Gia Scott-Heron described her father as “a man who kept it realer than life.”

Read more from Billboard.com

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