Gareth Hughes 17 January 2012 - 9:57am
Gil Scott Heron's posthumous memoir is no ordinary memoir on many levels.
Far from being a flat-out autobiography, it’s mainly an account of Gil Scott-Heron’s tour with Stevie Wonder to campaign for Dr. King’s birthday to be made a holiday in the first place. Published on Martin Luther King Day almost exactly a year on from the publication of King’s own Stride Toward Freedom, there is a welcome sense of symmetry.
Couple that with Scott-Heron’s death shortly before publication when the editing stage was far from complete and The Last Holiday is quite unlike anything else in its field. An epilogue from publisher Jamie Byng notes that Scott-Heron originally planned to write the book in the third person before deciding against it, and that much of the finished work was typed up from typewriter sheets and handwritten scraps.
This is readily apparent, as you can tell the book is far from finished, but that suits the author to a T. Scott-Heron’s often stream-of-consciousness prose in The Last Holiday – chronology and subjects muddled, polemic dipped in humour – mirrors his best work in the music and spoken word world.
Scott-Heron’s influence over hip-hop music is still far-reaching – he was sampled by Kanye West as recently as 2010 – so any book written by his own hand is worth reading. But The Last Holiday is perhaps more important in his canon than all his previous books, for summing up his talents, his politics and his refusal to play by the rules from day one.