Gil Scott-Heron, who died a year ago today, was a man of great strengths and tragic weaknesses. Beginning his career as a poet and novelist, he gained even greater fame as a revolutionary blues man whose music embraced spoken word, jazz, and funk. Backed by his chief musical collaborator Brian Jackson and a crew of inspired musicians, the learned lyricist spoke out about everything from mass media mind manipulation ("The Revolution Will Not Be Televised") to the evils of apartheid in South Africa to his own personal struggles with drugs and jail.

While many music critics baptized the rhythmic rebel as the “godfather of rap,” the brother preferred to dub himself “a blueslogist.” Nevertheless, Gil’s blend of bookish intellectualism and cynical humor inspired a generation of hip-hop rebels who embraced and built on his gritty vision. From Chuck D to Kanye West, the master blaster proved to be a profoundly influential voice. This Memorial Day Weekend, we take time out to look back at ten of his most seminal tracks.

Written By Michael A. Gonzales (@GonzoMike)