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Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)

Desert Dancer 27 May 11 - 11:57 PM
Desert Dancer 28 May 11 - 12:01 AM
michaelr 28 May 11 - 01:22 AM
GUEST,MC Fat 28 May 11 - 05:47 AM
Lox 28 May 11 - 11:20 AM
Desert Dancer 28 May 11 - 11:34 AM
GUEST,BigDaddy 28 May 11 - 12:02 PM
Sir Roger de Beverley 28 May 11 - 12:15 PM
Desert Dancer 28 May 11 - 12:55 PM
Bonnie Shaljean 28 May 11 - 12:59 PM
Lonesome EJ 28 May 11 - 01:46 PM
Stringsinger 28 May 11 - 02:19 PM
voyager 28 May 11 - 02:47 PM
billhudson 28 May 11 - 03:02 PM
josepp 28 May 11 - 03:09 PM
Spleen Cringe 28 May 11 - 04:55 PM
Neil D 28 May 11 - 06:39 PM
Sir Roger de Beverley 27 Jun 11 - 02:25 PM
Desert Dancer 10 Jul 11 - 02:55 PM
Desert Dancer 01 Feb 12 - 06:42 PM
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Subject: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 27 May 11 - 11:57 PM

Gil Scott-Heron, Spoken-Word Musician, Dies at 62

Associated Press, via NY Times

The author of the song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" — which helped pioneer sounds that would fuse to become rap — has died in New York City. Musician Gil Scott-Heron was 62.

A friend who answered the telephone listed for his Manhattan recording company confirms he died Friday afternoon at a hospital. Doris C. Nolan says he died after becoming sick upon returning from a European trip.

Scott-Heron recorded "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" in the 1970s in Harlem.

He mixed minimalistic percussion and spoken-word performances tinged with politics in a style he sometimes referred to as bluesology. He recorded more than a dozen albums and wrote a handful of books.

Scott-Heron was born in Chicago on April 1, 1949. He was raised in Jackson, Tenn.


More to come, no doubt.

~ Becky in Long Beach

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 28 May 11 - 12:01 AM

Gil Scott-Heron website. No update there, yet.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: michaelr
Date: 28 May 11 - 01:22 AM

We almost lost Detroit. And now we've lost the man. One of the coolest cats, RIP.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: GUEST,MC Fat
Date: 28 May 11 - 05:47 AM

Michael Marra wrote agreat song about his father Gil Heron who wa the first black player to play for Celtic Football Club. A sad loss

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Lox
Date: 28 May 11 - 11:20 AM


When I went to see him live he asked the crowd what he should play for his encore.

I shouted out "lady Day" to which he replied "I think I know that one" and played it.

There are very few genuine characters like Gil Scott Heron who grace lifes stage.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 28 May 11 - 11:34 AM

Gil Scott-Heron, Poet And Musician, Has Died
by Daoud Tyler-Ameen
NPR, The Record blog

Gil Scott-Heron died Friday afternoon in New York, his book publisher reported. He was 62. The influential poet and musician is often credited with being one of the progenitors of hip-hop, and is best known for the spoken-word piece "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."

Scott-Heron was born in Chicago in 1949. He spent his early years in Jackson, Tenn., attended high school in The Bronx, and spent time at Pennsylvania's Lincoln University before settling in Manhattan. His recording career began in 1970 with the album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, which featured the first version of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." The track has since been referenced and parodied extensively in pop culture.

Scott-Heron continued to record through the 1970s and early '80s, before taking a lengthy hiatus. He briefly returned to the studio for 1994's Spirits. That album featured the track "Message to the Messengers," in which Scott-Heron cautions the hip-hop generation that arose in his absence to use its newfound power responsibly. He has been cited as a key influence by many in the hip-hop community — such as rapper-producer Kanye West, who closed his platinum-selling 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with a track built around a sample of Scott-Heron's voice.

Scott-Heron struggled publicly with substance abuse in the 2000s, and spent the early part of the decade in and out of jail on drug possession charges. He began performing again after his release in 2007, and in 2010 released a new album, I'm New Here, to widespread critical acclaim.


There is are links there to a previous article about his return to recording, and to "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", on YouTube. A commenter gives this link for YouTube search results for Gil Scott-Heron.

~ Becky in Long Beach

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: GUEST,BigDaddy
Date: 28 May 11 - 12:02 PM

A great talent with words and music. Wise and gifted with a sharp wit, social conscience, and a wicked sense of humor. And If you've never heard it, be sure to listen to "Whitey On the Moon" sometime. And "The Bottle." And "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," "We Almost Lost Detroit," "Johannesburg," "Winter in America," "Shut 'Em Down." And so many more. RIP.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Sir Roger de Beverley
Date: 28 May 11 - 12:15 PM

Work For Peace is another great one of his - based around the time Eisenhower but still relevant today. I am out of the country at the moment but will be listening to the couple of his albums that I have on my ipod whilst soaking up the Sun


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 28 May 11 - 12:55 PM

Gil Scott-Heron, Voice of Black Culture, Dies at 62
By Ben Sisario
New York Times, 28 May 2011

Gil Scott-Heron, the poet and recording artist whose syncopated spoken style and mordant critiques of politics, racism and mass media in pieces like "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" made him a notable voice of black protest culture in the 1970s and an important early influence on hip-hop, died on Friday at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 62 and had been a longtime resident of Harlem.

His death was announced in a Twitter message on Friday night by his British publisher, Jamie Byng, and confirmed early Saturday by an American representative of his record label, XL. The cause was not immediately known, although The Associated Press reported that he was admitted to St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center after becoming ill upon his return from a trip to Europe.

Mr. Scott-Heron often bristled at the suggestion that his work had prefigured rap. "I don't know if I can take the blame for it," he said in an interview last year with the music Web site The Daily Swarm. He preferred to call himself a "bluesologist," drawing on the traditions of blues, jazz and Harlem renaissance poetics.

Yet, along with the work of the Last Poets, a group of black nationalist performance poets who emerged alongside him in the late 1960s and early '70s, Mr. Scott-Heron established much of the attitude and stylistic vocabulary that would characterize the socially conscious work of early rap groups like Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions and has remained part of the DNA of hip-hop by being sampled by stars like Kanye West.

"You can go into Ginsberg and the Beat poets and Dylan, but Gil Scott-Heron is the manifestation of the modern word," Chuck D, the leader of Public Enemy, told The New Yorker in 2010. "He and the Last Poets set the stage for everyone else."

Mr. Scott-Heron's career began with a literary rather than a musical bent. He was born in Chicago on April 1, 1949, and was reared in Tennessee and New York, and his precocious work as a writer won him a scholarship to the Fieldston School in the Bronx. Following in the footsteps of Langston Hughes, he went to the historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and he wrote his first novel at 19, a murder mystery called "The Vulture." Shortly thereafter, he published a book of verse, "Small Talk at 125th and Lenox," and a second novel, "The Nigger Factory."

Mr. Scott-Heron turned to music to reach a wider audience, working at first with a college friend, Brian Jackson. Their first album, "Small Talk at 125th and Lenox," was released in 1970 on Flying Dutchman, a small label, and included a live recitation of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" accompanied by conga and bongo drums. A second version of that piece, recorded with a full band including the jazz bassist Ron Carter, was released on Mr. Scott-Heron's second album, "Pieces of a Man," in 1971.

"The Revolution" established Mr. Scott-Heron as a rising star of the black cultural left, and its cool, biting ridicule of a nation anesthetized by mass media has resonated with the socially disaffected of various stripes — campus activists, media theorists, coffeehouse poets — for four decades. Using a barrage of pop-culture references, Mr. Scott-Heron derided society's dominating forces as well as the gullibly dominated:

The revolution will not be brought to you by the Schaefer Award Theater and will not star Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.

The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.

The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.

The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, brother.

Other pieces, like "New York Is Killing Me," "Home Is Where the Hatred Is," "Angel Dust" and "We Almost Lost Detroit" dealt bluntly with poverty, drug addiction, racism and the lurking catastrophes in industrialized civilization.

During the 1970s, Mr. Scott-Heron was seen as a prodigy with significant potential, although he never achieved wide popularity. He recorded 13 albums between 1970 and 1982, and was one of the first acts that the music executive Clive Davis signed after starting Arista Records in 1974. In 1979, Mr. Scott-Heron performed at the antinuclear MUSE benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden, and in 1985 he appeared on the anti-apartheid album "Sun City," which also featured Bono, Keith Richards, Miles Davis and Steven Van Zandt.

By the mid-1980s, Mr. Scott-Heron had begun to fade, and in later years he struggled publicly with addiction. Since 2001, he had been convicted twice for cocaine possession, and he served a sentence at Rikers Island in New York for parole violation. The writer of the New Yorker profile in 2010 reported witnessing Mr. Scott-Heron smoking crack, and referred to him living in a cavelike apartment in Harlem and being so dismayed by his physical appearance that he avoided mirrors.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Despite Mr. Scott-Heron's public problems, he remained an admired cult figure who made occasional concert appearances and was sought after as a collaborator. Last year, XL released "I'm New Here," his first album of new material in 16 years, which was produced by Richard Russell, a producer of electronic dance music who had written a letter to Mr. Scott-Heron and met him at Rikers Island in 2006.

Reviews for the album inevitably referred to Mr. Scott-Heron as the "godfather of rap," but he made it clear he had different tastes.

"It's something that's aimed at the kids," he once said. "I have kids, so I listen to it. But I would not say it's aimed at me. I listen to the jazz station."

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 28 May 11 - 12:59 PM

Moving piece on him in the New Yorker, from last year:

New York Is Killing Me

Ekow Eshun (IMO one of the best broadcasters/writers out there) will be interviewed about him tonight on Channel 4 News (in the UK).

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 28 May 11 - 01:46 PM

Sad to hear this news. Gil was very much a spokesman for the black and disenfranchised. He had the look of a Black Panther with his fro and attitude, and embodied the dangerous side of the Revolution for many people.Behind the attitude there was always intelligence, and a bitter but not cruel sense of humor. Only a sensitive soul could have written Pieces of a Man.
Like so many of us, time and substances took their toll on Gil. But I still remember seeing him with Brian Jackson right after Johannesburg had hit and Gil was at the top of his game. He looked and sounded proud and indestructible, and that's the way I'll remember him.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Stringsinger
Date: 28 May 11 - 02:19 PM

What a loss! I enjoyed him so much.

The real father of "rap" has to be Fela Kouti. I'm sure that Gil Scott-Heron
knew of him and Fela was an influence.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: voyager
Date: 28 May 11 - 02:47 PM

Mudcat -

My pal Vinnie has long-ago put this tribute together for Gil Scott-Heron
Inner City Blues (Gil Scott-Heron) - Flash Required

Check it out!
RIP Brother Gil


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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: billhudson
Date: 28 May 11 - 03:02 PM

Rest in peace brother and we will try to keep singing and writing the way we see it. And here is hoping there are many more out there that will continue the same, the dream still lives.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: josepp
Date: 28 May 11 - 03:09 PM

Christ, who could possibly blame Heron for refusing to take credit for rap? I wouldn't either if I were him. It would be a damned shame if that's all he's remembered for.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 28 May 11 - 04:55 PM

I'm glad I got to see him play live in Manchester for a final time when he toured "I'm New Here" last year. One of the good guys.

Winter in America

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Neil D
Date: 28 May 11 - 06:39 PM

Very, very sorry to hear this. An icon of my youth.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Sir Roger de Beverley
Date: 27 Jun 11 - 02:25 PM

BBC4 are showing a documentary on G S-H tonight - 11pm UK time. However, the blurb reads "First shown in 2003" so they haven't exactly broken the bank to update it or produce a new one.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 10 Jul 11 - 02:55 PM

Instant Music Gratification - Ta-Nehisi Coates, NY Times

I saw Gil Scott-Heron perform, for the first time, in the fall of 1994. Like any scion of radical parentage, I was well acquainted with Heron's sprawling catalogue. Still, even for me, a young man who reveled in the track listings of limited releases, the rangy Heron had packed a few surprises. In the midst of old favorites, he uncorked a haunting and somber ode to the civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. If he gave the title I missed it, which is possible given that I was mesmerized by the song's elegiac simplicity. I tried to commit every note to memory, but ultimately, I was left with shards of lyrics, pieces of melody and a deep intense longing for a song I couldn't name.

Afterward, I prevailed upon family and friends, humming what I could recall, in a vain attempt to piece together the most memorable portion of that evening. I was haunted by my futility, and whenever someone mentioned Heron, I saw him in dream-time, presiding, gray and gaunt, over a keyboard, and hollering that lost anthem into the abyss. It was agony, but it was also familiar. A state of imposed ignorance was as native to pop culture nerds of the 20th century as it is foreign to those of the on-demand 21st.

We live in the time of Google the Great, whose all-seeing eye has ushered in a golden age of musical democracy. Out at your local bar, and faced with an enchanting, but obscure, slice of music, you can call up an app, hold your mobile device aloft like a scepter, and all the vitals -- song, artist, album -- are swiftly known to you. Failing that, an Internet search of quoted lyrics will have you, in mere seconds, faced with the tune in spades -- live, acoustic, remixed by the artist, mashed up by fans, covered by random Kansans hoping for discovery.

The march toward universal music extends back to the days of Edison. But I recall, with a perverse fondness, the latter days of the 20th century, when the franchise was still the exclusive property of record pools and radio. Only the Fates could compel your local station to deliver "Fresh Is the Word" or "Sucker DJs." This was before the lords of FM took to bragging "All hip-hop, all the time," when, outside of the five boroughs, rap was midnight music for the urban avant-garde.

Kids with substantive allowances could purchase actual records, but the rest of us, trapped in prudent homes, had only Memorex tapes to save our favorite jams from the yawning void beyond the memory of playlists. Who knew how long it would be before we again beheld the splendor of "Cold Gettin' Dumb"? Even the artists were ethereal. There was no Vibe or XXL to confirm the death of the Human Beat Box or Scott La Rock, or explain why UTFO faded away. Overrun by mystery, you had only divination and hours upon hours of deciphering cover art, hoping to confirm that the great Humpty Hump really was Shock G.

The mystery of music was the calling card of that pop age. Comic books were equally esoteric, alluding to back issues that would take months to procure, or that simply couldn't be procured at all. Favorite cartoons would come and go -- mid-continuity, plotlines dangling -- without explanation. The star receiver of your favorite football team would vanish, leaving you in wonder, until years later when an announcer's off-hand mention of a tragic car crash brought you up to speed. But the distance between what you knew and what you didn't was magic, was a shared realm of legitimate fact and fan fictions. It demanded interpretation, completion, creation.

Now everything is at the ready and all the stars of that mysterious era have taken to reality television, where every sliver of privacy is auctioned off. This is the part where I mourn for the benighted children born into a world of "Ice Loves Coco" and "Basketball Wives," of recaps and Internet campaigns.

No. This pop landscape, where every fan's smallest itch is immediately scratched, is the world I so desperately wanted. Whatever the deeper gifts imparted by a world of longing, I was always looking for a way out.

Some weeks ago, when Gil Scott-Heron died, I knew exactly what I wanted to hear. Google the Great had long ago solved my old conundrum -- the song was "95 South." And with a few keystrokes there it was -- the old raspy baritone, the mournful piano riffs. And there I was, circa 1994, the puzzle of memory now complete.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 06:42 PM

Book review: 'The Last Holiday: A Memoir' by Gil Scott-Heron, The late performer — one of the most influential artists of his generation — casts some light on his life, times and music.

By Lynell George, Special to the Los Angeles Times
January 29, 2012

The Last Holiday: A Memoir
Gil Scott-Heron
Grove Press: 321 pp. $25

It's impossible to pass through Gil Scott-Heron's memoir "The Last Holiday" without "hearing" it in the musician's own voice — the pitch and cadence of his unmistakable burnished baritone; the declarative positions and improvisational digressions that wander deep into a thicket.

Scott-Heron's death at 62 last spring unleashed a wave of global remembrances from all manner of self-described inheritors — politicians, poets, musicians, teachers, writers — who spoke not just of influence but inspiration: a paradigm for not just thinking but speaking out and taking action. He was after something, both in content and form, that couldn't always be simply categorized, and he preferred it that way. While boomers found a slogan in the refrain of his hit "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," the post-soul generation found a template in both his delivery and his reportage from the streets, dubbing him the "Godfather of Rap," a title he'd once famously dodged with the response "Don't blame me for that."

In later years, the image of him as the forthright griot-activist with the nimbus of Afro reporting, in "speak-song," on societal ills — poverty, alcoholism, big government, corruption, racism — became more complicated as Scott-Heron's public profile transformed. News reports on cocaine possession and time served for a parole violation replaced interviews and album reviews. He became a cautionary tale, zero degrees of separation from the ripped-from-the-headlines feel of his own compositions. It was heartbreaking for anyone who remembered the fire and force of his declarations, the proud profile he worked mightily to build.

Consequently, this posthumous recounting allows a chance to cast light on some corners of his thinking — particularly when it comes to politics and writing and the place that they intersect in his music. It's a document he says he hoped "is a chance to share some things with people," particularly his three children.

"The Last Holiday" is as much about his life as it is about context, the theater of late 20th century America — from Jim Crow to the Reagan '80s and from Beale Street to 57th Street. The narrative is not, however, a rise-and-fall retelling of Scott-Heron's life and career. It doesn't connect all the dots. It moves off-the-beat, at its own speed. It lingers on certain life chapters he preferred to recall (playing piano for his grandmother's sewing circle in Tennessee, getting lost in books, taking a leave from school to work on his first novel, "The Vulture," meeting his long-time collaborator Brian Jackson at Lincoln University). The rush of checking out the Last Poets. He slides over the problematic others (the final years and their ravages). Memory, he acknowledges, is tricky: "The raw feelings, like shock or sharp pain, or fear, suddenly grabbing your heart, are the closest to the top, easiest to reach. They return to me unbidden at times."

This approach to revelation lends the book an episodic quality, like oral storytelling does. It winds around, it repeats itself. It's as vivid as it is lyrically elliptical: "Words have been important to me for as long as I can remember. Their sound, their construction, their origins."

While "The Last Holiday" allows the reader in on Scott-Heron's process — his obsession with language, reading and writing, his game-changing heroes (among them: Langston Hughes, Thurgood Marshall, John Coltrane) — tying that to the "holiday" that the title references is a tremendous leap. In the prologue, Scott-Heron explains that the book's "central focus" is his friend Stevie Wonder's campaign to make the Rev.Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday. And though the last quarter of the book is by and large dedicated to his time working with Wonder, that story may have been the impetus, but it's not the engine.

"The Last Holiday" unrolls the blueprints. Pieces of a man come together; a foundation is laid down. Scott-Heron was part of the first wave of students to integrate the formerly all-white public junior high school in Jackson, Tenn. He had been deeply influenced by the long season of violence — lynchings, beatings, assassinations — that preceded and followed Freedom Summer in 1964. By the time he'd returned to New York to live with his mother, the rituals and stories of the South were deeply rooted in him.

"There were regular gatherings on the front porch.... It could include any number of people from the neighborhood.... And no matter where the conversations started, they would end up speaking on race. What was happening here and there. What they had read in the papers. What information had come through from the men and women who worked on the trains and knew what was going on from Miami to Chicago...."

By the time Scott-Heron stepped into a recording studio in the late '60s-early '70s, he was in a sense mirroring that ritual — trading stories, identifying problems, casting about for solutions. He set those words to moods. "I had an affinity for jazz and syncopation and the poetry came from the music. We made the poems into songs," he writes, "and we wanted the music to sound like words." Bound within it all, they were setting forth powerful ideas.

Journalists would probe: "How do you see yourself? … [J]azz or poet or singer or …" "I started looking for them to ask, 'vegetable or mineral?'" He was reaching for something new beyond easy description or category, which in many ways, was a metaphor: "I felt people who wrote about me and Brian should have looked at all we did. It was pretty obvious that there was an entire Black experience that didn't relate only to protest. We dealt with all the streets that went through black America," he writes. When he'd speak to the audience after his shows, he learned, "the songs that people wanted to talk about were ... more personal than political, more private than public, more of an emotion than an issue.''

Just as Scott-Heron was neither "vegetable" nor "mineral," it's fitting perhaps that "The Last Holiday" eludes a standard definition. Nor will it explain the "whys" of the latter years, but it is true to the man who shrugged off the limits of labels. Though, nearing the conclusion of the book, there are hints of darkness, his later interior struggle, he decided that this was the story he wanted to tell, one that is less official accounting than one long, open-hearted solo.

George is a Los Angeles-based journalist and an assistant professor of English and journalism at Loyola Marymount University.

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