Monday, December 1, 2008

In Memoriam: Gil Heron and Everett Strong

Gil Heron, the father of poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron, passed away on November 27th at the age of eighty-seven. Called "The Black Arrow," Heron was the first black player in British professional soccer.

As anyone who knows me knows, his son Gil Scott-Heron has been a major influence in my life. His music has been part of my life for over thirty-five years, a large part of the musical score of my life and times. GSH's music has been a source of inspiration, hope, and catharsis for me. His title of "Godfather of Rap" bears witness to his influence over modern rap and hip-hop. Although his later years have been scarred by addiction and incarceration, his political acumen, wit, and sense of history are as relevant today as when he recorded The Revolution Will Not Be Televised in 1971.

Yesterday was also the anniversary of the passing of Everett Strong, my father. He died twenty-eight years ago, when I was a young and angry man of twenty-five, just when I was getting to know him, and getting to know myself. Although he wasn't a highly educated man--my dad left school after the eighth grade to help support his family--my father read three newspapers a day, supported my efforts at higher education, and left me with lessons of love and support for those near and dear to me.

I'm not the man my father was, but I am my own man, and I try every day to be someone he would have been proud to know. I was raised in a loving home, with a mother and father who were home together every day of my life, for the love of each other as well as for me. Gil Scott-Heron, on the other hand, was abandoned by his father at an early age, and raised by his grandmother. I've often wondered, after hearing these words from his song Hello Sunday! Hello Road!, what Gil's life might have been like, if things had happened differently for him:

And it was on a Sunday I met my old man,

I was twenty-six years old.

Naw, but it was much too late to speculate

I was luckier, much luckier.

Thanks, Dad...and Gil, my condolences.


FreeSprirtedRuminations said...

A very touching post and beautifully written. Mr. Strong must have been an extraordinary man.

Rising Sun- L said...

Your father lives on within you and you honor him by the way you live your life.

RIP both Mr Heron and Mr Strong.