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The Last Holiday: A Memoir Hardcover – 5 Jan 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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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: 16.1 x 2.9 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 346,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I pre-ordered this book from Amazon as soon as I realised that it was due out. The service was just as good as ever, landing on my doorstep the very day that it was released. Unfortunately that is about as good as it got. The book itself is a disappointment, at least to me. How come a guy as wise and philosophical as Gil Scott Heron continually was on record can't put together a good quality autobiography, one with real meaning? To me the reasoning comes on the inside cover where I learned that the copy-write (and presumably the book earnings) belong to his estate, not that there is anything wrong with that in itself of course.

I've been a big fan of GSH since I first heard 'The Bottle' in the 1970's, one of the most soulful, haunting but beautiful records that I have ever listened to. Over the years, I have bought lots of his music including his last cd 'I'm New Here' which I loved and would recommend. Incidentally I was due to photograph him at Bestival in the September before he passed away. To me, the book lacks both the quality, honesty, humour and grittiness that I was expecting to encounter and that comes through in his songwriting and delivery.

I was hoping to learn much more about GSH as a person from the book, about his problems and how they were manifested, about his frailties and how they were formed and his political views and associations. Unfortunately, other than around his schooling I learned very little, most of the other stuff covered is just skirted over. To me, it reads like it was written just to fill the Scott Heron coffers once he had passed, and as I touched on earlier there is nothing wrong with that either, I just feel that we learn little from this book about this giant of music, culture and social commentary. That said; may he Rest In Peace.
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