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The Last Holiday

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  384 ratings  ·  71 reviews
“Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream. And Stevie Wonder had a dream. This is a book about dreams.”

In the Fall of 1980, Gil Scott-Heron was invited by Stevie Wonder to join him on a forty-one city tour across America that would end in Washington on January 15, 1981. The purpose of this tour was to raise popular support for the creation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a natio
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Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 10th 2012 by Canongate Books Ltd (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,114)
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Andre
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 ...more
Tyler Jones
While unbalanced and obviously unfinished, there is much to like. The wit and the engaging tone of voice grab you, and you feel yourself in the presence of a very special person.

But then....

But then you get the feeling that you are being played a bit. That you are hearing only part of the story - the part that casts that smart and charming narrator in the best possible light. Wait a second, you begin to wonder, could the Minister of Information possibly be feeding me some soul brother propaganda
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Art
It's a thrill to read the memoirs of someone I respect so enormously. As it turns out, this was posthumously coddled together from twenty years of writing for a few different off-and-on projects that were never quite published. You could've fooled me; The Last Holiday is eloquent, well-structured and inspiring, every page of it. Heron mentions that "economy" is the key to good writing, and he practices what he preaches.

There's a lot about his family life and childhood. Usually I find this the m
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Will Hermes
Great musician, poet, cultural voice. Wish he was still around to do a book tour.
Todd N
Bought at City Lights Bookstore (motto: We have no humor section!) as a reward for surviving yet another week on Earth.

I am a big fan of Gil Scott-Heron. When July 20th rolls around each year, I confess that my thoughts are more A rat done bit my sister, Nell than That's one small step for man. I may not have a red, black and green liberation jumpsuit that I have been saving for just the proper occasion, but I will occasionally refer to one. Winter In America with Brian Jackson is near the top o
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Mike
I damn near cried when Gil Scott died.
I was channel surfing on the radio when I caught the tail end of one of his songs. I was surprised that he was on the radio and I was pleased, but when they followed with another Gil Scott song I knew that he had passed. Sure enough the Dj dedicated the hour to the Late Great Gil Scott Heron. I have been anticipating this book since he mentioned it at a concert he gave a couple of years ago. He said that he was working on a book about Stevie Wonder and his
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Carolyn
A book I've been waiting for since the untimely death of Gil Scott-Heron in May 2011.

Did it live up to my expectations? Yes and no. This book raises almost as many questions as it answers. Obviously, Mr Heron expected to be around a while longer to fill us in with those answers in a future volume.

Predominantly about how he came to be on the Stevie Wonder tour that culminated in a huge concert in Washington to garner support for a public holiday in recognition of Dr Martin Luther King's birthday
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Eric
Apparently, GSH had been writing this memoir off and on for the last twenty years or so. It covers sections of his life and is far from linear. If there is a focal point to The Last Holiday it's his involvement with Stevie Wonder in trying to get Congress to establish MLK Day in the early 80's. For me, the reflections on his childhood in Tennessee and New York up to the point he started making music full-time was the most interesting. It's very touching to read his portrayal of the maternal gran ...more
Jane
This autobiography was published posthumously and while it was a project Scott-Heron was working on, it came to the publisher in drips and drabs. A superb account of the man, it's also a testament to it's editor for pulling it together. Scott-Heron wanted to write an account of Stevie Wonder's 'Hotter than July' tour that had as it's midway point the historic concert for Martin Luther King in Washington DC's Mall. He soon realised he couldn't write that story without detailing his own life story ...more
jeremy
before his death in 2011, the great gil scott-heron was enjoying somewhat of a resurgence in popularity and success. his 2010 album, i'm new here (his first in 16 years), was released to wide acclaim from fans and critics alike, and both of his novels, 1970's the vulture and 1972's the nigger factory, were about to find there way back into print. as a new generation of listeners were discovering the poet/musician/protorapper's nearly two dozen albums, scott-heron emerged from a tumultuous decade ...more
Tuck
the occasional writings of g s-h collected to make a very comprehensible whole. he goes over his life from little boy in Tennessee to nyc to califa. while perhaps not a complete explanation of his uncanny ability to 'tell a complete story in shortest form, a lyric" reader gets the idea about his black power stances, cutting social observations, unstinting courage, and empathy.
his chapter about his mom dying and him taking care of her apartment and effects is incredible and touching starts page 3
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Phil Overeem
A disappointment. While the first half's a four-star book, when the narrative arrives at GSH's musical career, it spirals downward. Like other similarly-disappointing memoirs (Nile Rodgers', for instance), there's virtually NOTHING on the inspiration and process that leads to "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," "Home is Where the Hatred Is" (it's already been written and is being covered by Esther Phillips when we first hear of it), "Winter in America"--if you're still reading this, you know ...more
Loring Wirbel
Even knowing what a powerful wordsmith Scott-Heron was, it was a pleasant surprise and a bit of a relief to discover how readable this memoir is, given the years Scott-Heron spent facing the challenges of drugs, a stroke, and HIV. Yes, much of it was written during his more lucid years, and yes, Tim Mohr and Jamie Byng played a big role in giving the book a coherent flow. Still, many of the book's strengths belong to Gil and Gil alone.

For one thing, Scott-Heron's encyclopedic political knowledge
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Christina Boyle
This book was published posthumously by his estate (an aside: that is apparently an ugly battle between his offspring and alleged offspring). I must have purchased because of his passing and because of my love of the spoken poetry The Revolution Will Not be Televised.

What I discovered and loved is that his prose is filled with same about cadence and beat as his poetry. He has an incredible command of the English language but also a gift of describing the emotion and wit in everyday life.

What I d
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Tony
The last time I saw Gil Scoot-Heron play was around 1990 at the Leeds Irish Centre. I was standing no more than six feet from the man and it was obvious that he was totally coked out. Every now and then he would leave the stage for refreshment and come back even more stoned. It was sad to see a man I loved and respected on such a self destructive path. Most people know the end of the story. Crack addiction, HIV, jail and death.

This slim volume deals with none of the latter years. In fact, it le
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Ian
This man is such an inspiration. I was a fan of his before reading the book, but I never really realized how intelligent and thoughtful and wise and hard-working he was. He accomplished more before turning 22 years old than most people accomplish in a lifetime, and he never stopped working hard to improve himself and the world around him.

He has an amazingly unique storytelling style, with a pace and rhythm that only a seasoned poet could manage. He isn't afraid to freely shift back and forth be
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Paul
This "Memoir" of Gil Scott-Heron, which he seems to have been in the process of pulling together piecemeal before his death in 2011 is a tantalising glimpse at the life of a unique individual. Much of the focus is on the Martin Luther King/ Hotter Than July tour with Stevie Wonder and no light is shed on the drug abuse and jail terms he went through. His early life is well represented here, which accompanies some of his later musical pieces on his early life and Lily Scott, his grandmother who r ...more
Mike Schwartz
Immortalized by so many great tunes: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, “Winter in America”, “Peace Be With You”, “Whitey on the Moon”, “We Almost Lost Detroit”, “Home is Where the Hatred Is’, “The Bottle”, etc. as well as some classic poetry and a civil right legacy to be proud of, Gil Scott-Heron is a hero, and his sad decline and death last year should not overshadow his great work. Fortunately, he left behind these memoirs written over the course of many years. Turns out he’s a great wr ...more
Rand
A good, easy, engaging read overall.

excerpt:(view spoiler)
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Karen Davis
I never missed Gil Scott Heron when he came to Louisville. More likely than not, I own every album he put out. It was a special call made to my sister just to tell her he had a new album out when I heard him on NPR in 2010. At the announcement of his death my soul mourned not only for the loss of his life but also for the youthful idea that all it took for change to occur was for enough people to be informed. Reading his memoir was a natural extension of my admiration and love for his work.

I lo
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LeGrand
I first heard about Gil Scott-Heron in early 2010 after reading a review of his album on Okayplayer.com. By May of 2010 I had read so many glowing reviews of his album "I'm new here" that I finally purchased it. His music had a similar energy to Jill Scotts earlier albums and I thoroughly enjoyed his ability to weave together poetry, politics, love, and life into his music. I had this album in rotation for a few months and eventually kind of just forgot about Mr. Scott-Heron altogether.

One day w
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Amy
I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, since this book was published posthumously, I had low expectations. I was counting on it being mostly written by someone else. I was relieved to "hear" Gil Scott-Heron's voice in the prose. I can picture him reading this book aloud in his own voice. I learned a lot I didn't know previously; that was nice. On the other hand, this seems more like a collection of vignettes than a chronological narrative. There are long sections that cover very little ground ( ...more
Althea
Reading this book was like having a conversation with your favourite stoner uncle. I hadn't read any of his books hitherto but I loved his lyrical style and his use of words and had to stop and steal some of his phrases- a long tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs was a particular favourite. It rambled, it went in many different directions from chapter to chapter but the love he had for his grandmother and mother was in stark contrast to the rocky relationships he had with women in his life ...more
Sally
This was an excellent memoir. I'm not sure why I'm surprised, given that Gil Scott-Heron is an accomplished writer. I have read a number of memoirs lately, and it is very easy to fall into the common traps of: 1) making a list of mind numbing details; 2) conveying an overt current of self-importance, and 3) attempting to explain/and or justify past actions that do not fit into the self you acknowledge today. Gil Scott-Heron does none of these. Instead, it is the perfect mix of his story, interac ...more
Mike
All his albums will be on heavy rotation after this poignant journey through many of the key points of Gil's life. While it skips many of the lows it's a truly touching look back at the life of a writer and musician who deserves far more recognition than he's ever received.
Graeme
I kind of think if Gil Scott Heron's books as a little bit like eating a rally delicious fish that has an awful lot of bones. Inspiring and at times incredibly humorous, though I think I wanted to know 'more' about GSH from the text if the book. But could be just me. But thoroughly dug it.

I suppose that the thing is it's not exactly a memoir in the typical sense. I guess. Not a 'this is my life' type of straight up story. It's recollections, impressions, reflections, poetry. It's wonderfully no
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Julia Bartholomew-king
Being a huge fan of Gil Scott-Heron ( and lucky enough to have seen him perform three times) I found this book lacked some soul and honesty. The writing steered away from being personal and instead seem to focus on GSH's "civic" achievements. I get that he was instrumental in helping Stevie Wonder bring about a National Holiday for Martin Luther King Jr., and other victories. But where was the soul, where did the inspiration for his amazing music come from? I wanted to get more of an organic sen ...more
Robbert Voges
Harrowing, inspirational, life changing, music and soul. Beautiful . Be prepared for some serious sadness though.
Camille
this book was like pudding; easy to read, digest, and connect to. gil scott-heron is humbly supreme.
David Thrale
I only know Gil for his music. In that respect he and Brian Jackson are very high on my list of musicians who I love to listen to. So I was intrigued to find his autobiography. It was an easy read. I learned more about what made Gil tick, learned his respect for Stevie Wonder and Thurgood Marshall. I learned about his writing and his journey into music through poetry. But there seemed to be very big gaps. astonishingly almost nothing on Brian Jackson. it was all a bit sugar-coated. Nothing about ...more
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Gilbert Scott Heron was born in 1949. His mother was a librarian and his father a soccer player from Jamaica. In his youth Heron displayed both sporting prowess and academic ability (he won a place at Pennsylvania Lincoln University, like his role model Langston Hughes, the Harlem Renaissance man). But he quit college after the first year to write his first novel, The Vulture (1970). While Heron w ...more
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