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The Tragedy of Gil Scott-Heron
(Written November 22, 2001)

Singer Gil Scott-Heron, who is featured in the Deep Groove Encyclopedia, was recently sentenced to a prison term of one to three years for drug possession.

Anytime someone falls prey to drug addiction, it's a sad story.  But what makes Scott-Heron's case so frustrating is that he ensured some prison time by failing to take advantage of several breaks that the judicial system gave to him.

Having been linked to drug rumors since the 1980s, Scott-Heron's most recent arrest came in November 2000, when he was allegedly seen buying cocaine near his home in Harlem.  Scott-Heron disputed the charge, yet he pled guilty to felony drug possession in July so that he could continue touring.  As a part of the deal, Scott-Heron promised the judge that he would enter a rehab program once the tour ended in the fall.  This was not the first time the entertainer had been shown leniency, since he had yet to serve any jail time despite persistent rumors in the entertainment business about his addiction.   

But once he returned to New York, he refused to enter a program, giving judge Carol Berkman no choice but to send him to prison.  Prosecutors for Scott-Heron's case said that they did not recommend a prison sentence, but they did not object when it was handed down.

Given these dynamics, it's difficult to feel any sympathy for the man whose words have been an inspiration to several generations of people.  He has had several people, including relatives and former girlfriends, try to get him into a program but by all accounts he is in denial about his habit.

Sadly, the longtime activist has become the kind of person he sang about in the addiction-themed songs "The Bottle" and "Home Is Where the Hatred Is."  Hopefully his imposed solitude will provide him with the opportunity to get himself straightened out.

Copyright 2001 Anthony Lamar Rucker.  All rights reserved.

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