Kanye West was among those who paid respect to spoken word artist and “bluesologist” Gil Scott-Heron, who passed away at age 62 last week, at a memorial service in Harlem’s Riverside Church Thursday (June 2).
The service, which was open to the public, closed with West performing an Auto-Tuned yet emotional rendition of of “Lost In The World” — the song from his latest album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and one that samples the refrain, “Who will survive in America?” from Scott-Heron’s well-known poem, “Comment #1.”
Gil Scott-Heron Dies in New York at Age 62
In addition to West, a trio of Scott-Heron’s longtime backing musicians gave a spirited performance of the artist’s songs “Better Days Ahead” and “The Bottle,” while the audience clapped along.
Also in attendance at the service were Grammy-winning producer Malcolm Cecil, Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets, Scott-Heron’s wife of 10 years Brenda Sykes, daughter Gia-Scott Heron and assorted family and friends. Scott-Heron’s eulogy was read by Sykes, who shared her intimate story of meeting Scott-Heron: the couple was introduced by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was apparently a friend and high school rival of Scott-Heron’s (Heron played for Dewitt Clinton High in the Bronx as a teen).
Also a poet, Scott-Heron’s daughter Gia read an inspired piece of prose she’d written for her father called “Time” and sang a stirring rendition of “The Rose” by Amanda McBroom, popularized by Bette Midler. Gia Scott-Heron described her father as “a man who kept it realer than life.”