The Last Holiday

A Memoir

Gil Scott-Heron

Words have been important to me for as long as I can remember. Their sound, their construction, their origins
The Last Holiday by Gil Scott-Heron (Paperback ISBN 9781786890252) book cover

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‘Leave it to Scott-Heron to save some of his best for last. This posthumously published memoir is an elegiac culmination to his musical and literary career. He’s a real writer, a word man, and it is as wriggling and vital in its way as Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One.’ New York Times

In the autumn of 1980, Stevie Wonder invited Gil Scott-Heron and his band to join him on a forty-one-city tour across America. The purpose of the tour, which included a major rally in Washington on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday, was to galvanise popular support for the creation of a national holiday in honour of the great civil rights leader. The Last Holiday is Scott-Heron’s fascinating account of what took place and how he came to be there.

Raised by his grandmother in Tennessee, Scott-Heron’s journey from humble beginnings to becoming one of the most uncompromising and influential songwriters of his generation is a remarkable one. Politically savvy and socially conscious, savagely satirical yet deeply compassionate, he is regularly cited as the godfather of rap, and his unexpected death in May 2011 marked the loss of one of the world’s most eloquent musicians. In the words of Sarah Silverman, ‘he mirrored ugliness with beauty, audacity and valour’. Chuck D of Public Enemy remarked, ‘we do what we do and how we do because of you’, and Eminem felt that ‘he influenced all of hip-hop’.

A heartfelt and beautifully written memoir, The Last Holiday is full of bright insights into the music industry, New York, the civil-rights movement, modern America, governmental hypocrisy, Stevie Wonder and our wider place in the world. It is also a fitting testament to the generous brilliance of Gil Scott-Heron and to the Spirits that have guided him.


“A marvellous documentary of black America and life lived in the raw”
spectator

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“Engaging and immensely human … Much like his poetry, Scott-Heron’s style is spare and effective, offering up jagged observations on fame, friendship and political and racial injustice.”
independent On Sunday

“This memoir reads a bit like Langston Hughes filtered through the scratchy and electrified sensibilities of John Lee Hooker, Dick Gregory and Spike Lee … about his own music, he could not be more simple or elegant. “I was trying to get people who listened to me,” he writes, “to realise that they were not alone.”“
Dwight Garner
new York Times

“One of the great pioneers of late-twentieth-century music.”
independent

“Scott-Heron is such a fine writer … As readers and fans alike, we are left to mourn the passing of surely, the least likely pop star ever, one with a truly brilliant mind.”
Rob Fitzpatrick
sunday Times


Gil Scott-Heron

In a musical career spanning five decades, from Small Talk at 125th and Lenox to I’m New Here, Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011) released twenty albums and many seminal singles including ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,’ ‘Home Is Where the Hatred Is,’ ‘Winter in America,’ ‘B Movie,’ ‘Johan­nesburg,’ and ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane.’ He was also the author of three previous books: two novels, The Vulture and The Nigger Factory and Now and Then: The Poems of Gil Scott- Heron.


Canongate’s own Jamie Byng interview’s Gil Scott-Heron in 2010. This year would have marked Gil’s 68th birthday. His posthumously published, indelible memoir The Last Holiday is now a Canon.


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