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The Last Holiday: A Memoir [Hardcover]

Gil Scott-Heron
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Jan 2012
'Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream. And Stevie Wonder had a dream. This is a book about dreams.' In the autumn of 1980, Stevie Wonder invited Gil Scott-Heron to join him on a forty-one-city tour across America, ending in Washington in January 1981, to gather popular support for the creation of a holiday in honour of the great civil-rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. Scott-Heron uses this history-making tour as the backbone of his fascinating memoir. Raised by his grandmother in Jackson, Tennessee, Scott-Heron's journey from humble beginnings to becoming one of the most uncompromising and influential musicians and songwriters of his generation is a remarkable one. Politically savvy and savagely satirical, socially conscious and tender-hearted, Gil Scott-Heron has been called the godfather of rap, and his unexpected death in May 2011 marked the loss of one of the world's most vocal and articulate artists. Chuck D of Public Enemy said of Scott-Heron, 'we do what we do and who we do because of you' and Eminem added, 'Scott-Heron influenced all of hip-hop'. In the words of Sarah Silverman, 'he mirrored ugliness with beauty, audacity, and valour'. A compelling testament to Gil Scott-Heron's career and achievements, The Last Holiday is full of Scott-Heron's keen insights into the music industry, the civil rights movement, modern America, governmental hypocrisy and our wider place in the world.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd (5 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857863010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857863010
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 22.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 282,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


One of the great pioneers of late-twentieth-century music. --Independent

For more than two decades, [Gil Scott-Heron] has been committed to examining those facts of the human condition that most of us would rather forget . . . he is an artist who has crafted witty but crucial insights for Black America. --Washington Post

The formative incidents of Scott-Heron's life are placed in their cultural and historical contexts with great delicacy and precision. --Ben Thompson, Sunday Telegraph

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

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

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. --Fiona Sturges, Independent on Sunday

An impressively lucid book . . . both candid and guarded . . . his final admissions are heart-rending. --Metro

A delight, full of with and alliteration and studded with passages of verse . . . it is a heartbreaking read as the last testament of a much-loved man, but it should certainly be read. --Herald

Scott-Heron's memoir comes beautifully to life when talking about other musicians. --Telegraph Review

Book Description

'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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'What's the Word ? ' 26 Mar 2012
Firstly , I must admit to being slightly skeptical when I heard of the publication of this book so close to Gil's untimely demise . However , being a long time follower of all things Gil and knowing that he had been talking of putting a book out of this ilk for years I purchased a copy . Suffice to say , I have not been disappointed . What you get from this book is a feeling of being closer to GSH . Alot of the references in his songs become more relevant as he recounts passages from his life and you get a real feeling of how he was shaped . Sure , not everything is in here and maybe it would have had a different tone if Gil was still with us . But overall it stands up as insight into 'the mind of Gil Scott - Heron'.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By MCDee
The central thread of this text is the experience of touring with Stevie Wonder. Yet there is much more depth to it than a simple diary of any particular event.

Through the exploration of Gil's past, the reader becomes enriched about how a seemingly unique writer and artist shared the same dilemmas at times as so-called ordinary people. We learn of Gil's upbringing, and read hints of where certain aspects of the 'Scott' character may have originated.

Recollections are as diverse as they are insightful, from Gil's apperance on a Glasgow television show to talk of his footballing father, to the rather more alarming episodes where he suffers a stroke and recalls the aftermath of his mother's death.

Throughout there are examples of his sharp and intellectual wit and understanding of what goes on behind the American facade we see looking in from outside.

However complex the story becomes, the return to the relationship with Stevie over his career until 1981 anchors the text.

At just over 40 chapters this is an enthralling dip into the life of a man who really should have been given more recognition. Though it is poignant that part of Gil Scott-Heron's story be told after his passing, there remains a lingering appetite to find out more.

I for one can only hope that any future texts on the life of Mr.Scott-Heron will be as insightful as this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gil - warts and all 14 May 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is such a warts-and-all account of Gil Scott-Heron's life that it is hard to be objective about it. Coming so soon after his untimely death, it still feels raw and uncensored. That is partly, perhaps, because it still feels like a good early draft of something, rather than a final version: fresh from the word processor, but without the sort of smoothing-out of style and story that might come from a more refined draft.
We all know what a huge figure Gil Scott-Heron was, his huge strengths and his considerable human failings. Because the story is largely an account of his career up to and including the successful campaign to establish Martin Luther-King Day [spearheaded by Stevie Wonder, but in which GSH played no small role] it tends to play up his strengths and achievements, and glosses over the huge problems of his later years: drink, drugs, relationship conflicts, prison. Those, of course, were accounted for in his final, visceral album.
What is there is an inspiring account of a young man who, brought up by his mother and grandmother, went on to be a trailblazer: a Black student in a mostly-white educational world, a leading campus activist, a published poet and novelist before he was 20, a key cross-genre figure in music who embraced jazz, funk, soul, and - in his early fusion of poetry and music - became the male midwife of rap.
There is self-mythologising here, and self-justification, but also self-criticism, some silly macho moments [involving drink, cars, guns], some strangely ambiguous attitudes to women [revering women in his family, sometimes dismissive of many others], and an odd mix of styles - from stoned consciousness-streaming to brief moments of semi-fiction to poetry to almost journalistic verite.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book 29 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought this for my husband but it looks so interesting I think I will read it myself, after he's read it of course.
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