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The Last Holiday: A Memoir Hardcover – January 10, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A jazz and blues poet-musician known as a spoken-word performer, Scott-Heron is often called the godfather of rap and is indeed considered one of the founding fathers of hip-hop. Among his most influential works is the composition The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, which originally appeared on his album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (1970). This well-written and fresh memoir, posthumously published—he died in May 2011—recalls Scott-Heron’s upbringing in Jackson, Tennessee, and New York City. He was the son of an opera singer and a Jamaican soccer player (the first black athlete to play for the Glasgow Celtic football team in Scotland) and was among the few black students to attend the prestigious Fieldston School in New York. Scott-Heron comments on his love of language and his respect for education. He discusses his recording career, including the critically acclaimed Winter in America (1974); his publishing career; and his 1980 tour with Stevie Wonder. Engrossing and even at times uplifting, Scott-Heron’s self-portrait grants us insights into one of the most influential African American musicians of his generation. --June Sawyers

From Bookforum

The publication of The Last Holiday gives Heron the final word on an extraordinary life that has often been invoked as a prime example of artistic tragedy . . . but the memoir never achieves the formal economy or evocative force of Scott-Heron's best song lyrics. —Brent Hayes Edwards

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1St Edition edition (January 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780802129017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802129017
  • ASIN: 0802129013
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Carole V. Murray on January 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The only word I could use to describe finishing this book was " bereft". I felt as though I had spent some wonderful quality time with an old friend. And he was. I grew up with "In the Bottle" and "Winter in America" and "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."
Gil Scott-Heron was a crazy good WordMeister. That's why I recommend you read this book slowly. In the same category as Dylan's Chronicles, Patti Smith's Just Kids, now add the Last Holiday.
Gil was probably too smart for his own well being. His loss will be long lamented.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By N. Gorman on January 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is a must read for all Gil Scott Heron fans, activists, musicians and those who struggle to be human. Contrary to the book's title, it is really more of a memoir of his life and career than it is one of the music tour he did with Stevie Wonder to make MLK's birthday a national holiday. Though vivid, satirical and poetic as his rap and music was, he often leaves the reader hangin in spots- Like he expresses his annoyance with having to pay $300 for a Lamaze class when his wife, Brenda is pregnant with their daughter Gia but then tells you nothing of the birth. He has the courage to disclose the perplexing encounter with his fiance, Lurma who disappeared and broke off the engagement without a word and then shows up with their son at his doorstep two years later insisting he promise not to tell anyone they have a son. He claims he ruminated about this after promising her but gives you no clue as to why he accepted this insane request or basically abandons his son Rumal til 10 years later.
Although you admire the young, ambitious Gil in his support of his mother in the projects of the Bronx, his love for his proud grandmother who stood up to racists, his travels with the brothas on the road, his activist work at Lincoln U, and in his tenacious climb to creative and academic success, he neglects highlights of his work of the Jamaican Sunsplash Festival, the campaign to free Gary Tyler, the worldwide Freedom Fest in 1988 to free Mandela, and the success of demobilizing US nuke power through his work with Musicians for Safe Energy among others.
With the exception of Stevie Wonder, and a bit on Brenda and Lurma, he barely touches on the impact of his relationships and the last 20 years of his life are barely mentioned including his bouts with cocaine and alcohol.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Read-A-Lot on February 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a fan of Gil Scott-Heron for all of my adult life. So, just to have these remembrances of Gil is exhilarating. It is not really a memoir, but more of a look at events and times of his early career. The central event of this book is the tour he did with Stevie Wonder. There is discussion of his childhood, teen years, and the beginning of his musical journey. The missing parts are of his later life, it would have been interesting to hear Gil in his humorous poetic language explain his darker days. However, having said that, the poetic interludes and his use of language in this book highlights why he became such a favorite of people who loved messages in their music. I'm sure a biography of Gil is on the way, but I'm not sure it will surpass this collection of thoughts and writing from the man himself. I was listening to "Winter in America" as I was reading this book and that added to the magic that was Gil Scott-Heron. Kudos to the editors for putting this together. Well done! Readers take advantage and enjoy the journey.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Donald E. Gilliland on June 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was looking forward to reading this very, very much. I've been a huge Gil Scott-Heron fan for decades, primarily for his amazing music, but I also enjoyed his two novels and some of his poetry. By the time I was 50 pages into this book I was mesmerized, awestruck, totally enraptured by Gil's writing. And then ... things started to unravel. Maybe that's not the right word, but events as described in the book started jumping around and I felt the narrative just wasn't flowing like it had in the early chapters. The murky, middle passages also felt less eloquent and moving, compared to what had first hooked me. I thought that the strongest parts were early in the book, when Gil describes growing up, being raised by his grandmother, working his first jobs, experiences in school, getting to know his mother again. Ironically, we don't get that much insight into the making of his music, and absolutely zero about the problems he later had dealing with drugs. Maybe those details were planned for another memoir. Ostensibly, as the title indicates, this book is mainly about "The Last Holiday," that being the campaign to get Martin Luther King's birthday declared a national holiday in the USA. Gil shines his light on that campaign, particularly the crucial role that Stevie Wonder played in getting this done. But even Stevie's "role" and what he did, other than organizing some concerts and writing a song on "Hotter Than July" about the idea, isn't fully explained or detailed in this book. We aren't told, for example, what exactly was the tipping point that caused the holiday to finally become a reality. Also, there is are too many inconsequential references to the band's road crew on tour, and inane details about sound and lighting problems that really aren't relevant to the rest of the story.Read more ›
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