The Last Holiday: A Memoir

The Last Holiday: A Memoir

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by Gil Scott Heron

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The stunning memoir of Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Holiday has been praised for bringing back to life one of the most important voices of the last fifty years. Now in paperback, The Last Holiday provides a remarkable glimpse into Scott-Heron’s life and times, from his humble beginnings to becoming one of

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The stunning memoir of Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Holiday has been praised for bringing back to life one of the most important voices of the last fifty years. Now in paperback, The Last Holiday provides a remarkable glimpse into Scott-Heron’s life and times, from his humble beginnings to becoming one of the most influential artists of his generation.

The memoir climaxes with a historic concert tour in which Scott-Heron’s band opened for Stevie Wonder. The Hotter than July tour traveled cross-country from late 1980 through early 1981, drumming up popular support for the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. King’s birthday, January 15, was marked with a massive rally in Washington.

A fitting testament to the achievements of an extraordinary man, The Last Holiday provides a moving portrait of Scott-Heron’s relationship with his mother, personal recollections of Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Clive Davis, and other musical figures, and a compelling narrative vehicle for Scott-Heron’s insights into the music industry, the civil rights movement, governmental hypocrisy, and our wider place in the world. The Last Holiday confirms Scott-Heron as a fearless truth-teller, a powerful artist, and an inspiring observer of his times.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Often called the godfather of rap, Scott-Heron released 20 albums and many singles, including the deeply influential “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Now, even after his death, Scott-Heron continues to mesmerize us in this brilliant and lyrical romp through the fields of his life. He carries us from his birth in 1949 and childhood in Jackson, Tenn., just east of Memphis, to his coming-of-age in New York City and his many and varied musical adventures with recording industry executives such as Clive Davis of Columbia Records. Scott-Heron recalls his grandmother talking to the junk man one day and the next thing he knew, an upright piano was being carried into the house; his musical career commenced when he started learning to play hymns on that piano. When the family got a second radio, he was able to listen to WDIA in Memphis, where Carla and Rufus Thomas and B.B. King were on-air personalities. When the interstate highway paved over their neighborhood, Scott-Heron and his mother moved on to New York, where his musical career took flight and soared. Scott-Heron’s memoir also gracefully calls out Stevie Wonder and his initially attempts and eventually successful campaign to establish Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday. In this captivating memoir Scott-Heron movingly gives thanks for the “Spirits,” those intangible influences in his life that moved him and helped direct his life and to whom he gives back so fully through his gift of lyrics and music. (Feb.)
Library Journal
This isn't just a memoir of Scott-Heron's being raised by his grandmother in Jackson, TN, and eventually becoming a preeminent musician/songwriter, often called the godfather of rap. More important, it's also about his joining a 41-city tour in fall 1980, organized by Stevie Wonder, that aimed to build momentum for the creation of a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Alas, Scott-Heron died in May 2011; his book remains an important testament to a life lived in—and beyond—music.
Kirkus Reviews
A posthumous memoir that evokes Scott-Heron's (1949–2011) voice but leaves too many gaps unfilled and questions unanswered. The distinction between memoir and autobiography is clear in this narrative by the author (Now and Then, 2000, etc.), a once-prolific poet and recording artist who had all but disappeared from the culture for more than a decade, before his revival with 2010's I'm New Here, a well-received comeback album. At that time, a resurgence of publicity cast light on his hiatus, as his crack addiction and incarceration for cocaine had silenced a voice that had been strong and prophetic, with cuts such as "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" having a profound influence on the most socially conscious hip-hop. A few months later he died. There isn't a single mention of the artist's struggles with drugs and the law here, almost nothing from the last decade of his life and only spotty accounts of the 30 years that transpired after his 1980 tour with Stevie Wonder. Oddly enough, that tour and Wonder's efforts to establish a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. provide this book with both its focus and its title. There is also plenty about the author's formative years, after his soccer-playing father left his mother and Scott-Heron was raised by his grandmother in Tennessee, before moving to Manhattan to live with his mother. The author writes with a wit and warmth at odds with what he perceives as his image of "some wild-haired, wild-eyed motherfucker." He came from a well-educated family, received a postgraduate literary education, became a student militant during the early '70s and taught writing while establishing the fusion of jazz, groove and spoken word that would prove so influential. Yet his partnership with musical collaborator Brian Jackson ends without explanation, as does his wife's transition to ex-wife. Of his third child, he writes, "How I became a father again at nearly fifty years old is a story I will save for another time." The author ran out of time, leaving plenty of stories untold.
Dwight Garner
Leave it to Scott-Heron to save some of his best for last…The Last Holiday 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…This memoir reads a bit like Langston Hughes filtered through the scratchy and electrified sensibilities of John Lee Hooker, Dick Gregory and Spike Lee.
—The New York Times
Adam Langer
Stories are numerous of people approaching Scott-Heron and finding in him a willing listener with genuine respect for fans and fellow artists. And it is with both relief and happiness that I can report that this is the Scott-Heron who emerges from The Last Holiday…in large part an inspiring and triumphant memoir.
—The Washington Post

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Product Details

Canongate U.S.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.30(d)

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