"Just heard the very sad news that my dear friend and one of the most inspiring people I've ever met, the great Gil Scott-Heron, died today."

These words were the first indication that one of music’s greatest figures, the ‘Godfather of Rap’ had died at the age of 62, and marked a tragic loss for fans across the globe. Falling ill after a European tour, he died yesterday afternoon in hospital in New York, leaving behind a legacy of impassioned political music and creative genius.

Scott-Heron gained wide critical acclaim at a young age, penning his The Revolution Will Not Be Televised at the age of 18, a song which would become part of popular consciousness. It has since been cited by many as a masterpiece, and has been referenced by Kanye West, Snoop Dogg and a canon of other rappers. >From this point, he went on to release fifteen studio albums and nine live albums over a 40 year period, the last released in 2010.

I’m New Here, his final studio album was universally well received and described as ”masterfully stark” (Slant Magazine) and ”an extraordinarily powerful album” (The Sunday Times). This album dealt with tough themes for him, and was described as ”the sound of a proud man swallowing his pride while preserving his dignity, of a wise man sharing instead of lecturing,” (Tiny Mix Tapes).

Those themes: his drug use, his time in prison and his family trouble are the unfortunate story of his latter years. In 2001, sentenced to one to three years for possession of Cocaine, he spent a year in jail. Following this, he violated a plea bargain over a drug rehabilitation programme, which saw his return to prison in 2006 and his release in May 2007. Forced to confront his situation, he realised: “not only do you have a problem but you have a problem with admitting you have a problem.”

Throughout his career, Scott-Heron remained an influential figure in both music and politics, challenging inequalities and human rights abuses wherever he saw them, and comparing the racial situation in the US as equal to that of Apartheid in South Africa. In 2011, he was still as idealistic and creative as he was at the beginning of his career. For those who have heard and loved his music, from Small talk at 125th and Lennox in 1970 to his collaboration with Jamie XX this year, We’re New Here, this is a sad loss.