Track Of The Week #11 – Gil Scott-Heron ‘Angel Dust’

Gil Scott-Heron, poet, musician, political activist. Described as “The Manifestation of the Modern World” many people will agree that there are very few artists in the world to have had as big of an impact on society as Gil Scott-Heron. Known by many as being a man of the people, the musician always ensured that both his music and poetry took a firm social and political stance. Defined by himself as being a ‘Bluesologist’, the talented musician covered a range of styles, his most prominent being soul, blues and spoken-word. Although Heron passed away in 2011, his legend still lives on today. His music has been sampled by some of the biggest names in the world for years now. A few of those including Drake, Mos Def, 2pac and Kanye West who performed at his funeral. His musical legacy is immortal and will continue to stand the test of time thanks to such albums as ‘Pieces Of a Man’ and ‘The Revolution will not be Televised’.

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The single ‘Angel Dust’ was released in 1978 on his album with his leading musical partner, Brian Jackson. Together, the duo worked on eight albums and countless other compositions. Their most successful and iconic album being the 1977 release ‘Bridges’ which contains the famous, politically driven song ‘We Almost Lost Detroit’ which is one of the only songs to protest the development of nuclear power and weapons. However, that’s a story for another day. Now although ‘Angel Dust’ also provides a bold statement about how society is failing humans, it focuses specifically on drugs. Angel Dust, the street name for the drug PCP is infamous for its dangerous strength and connections with fatalities. ‘Angel Dust’ the song, follows a young man through his trip with PCP and his eventual death. Heron not only focuses on his experiences, but the reverberations it has for his family as his sister has to smother the shameful truth about his death. Although ‘Angel Dust’ is ugly in context, the song is somewhat of a musical masterpiece. The poignant lyrics are accompanied by hypnotic pan pipes and alluring bass lines. As enjoyable as this week’s track of the week is, it is hard shake the sadly ironic message attached to it. The sadness in his anti-drug plight lies in the fact that Gil Scott-Heron became plagued with drug addiction and was arrested on numerous occasions due to drug offences. Heron eventually tested positive to HIV, something that was seen to be an inherent connection to his crack-cocaine addiction. Although the cause of his death was never released, the musical maestro’s life is widely believed to have been cut short by drug use.

Alas, like Gil Scott-Heron himself, the legacy of ‘Angel Dust’ still lives on today thanks to sampling from the likes of Common, The Game and Kanye West. What is undeniably more significant and long-lasting than the sampling is of course, the message.

Listen & enjoy here –

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