Sunday, February 7, 2010

"The Black Arrow", Gil Scott-Heron's Footballing Dad

The great musician Gil Scott-Heron is touring with an album (I'm New Here). He's stirring up all sorts of excitement in fans of "the godfather of rap," who are thrilled to hear new music from the genre-defining/bending artist who has struggled in recent years with addiction.

The artist behind "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" has a rather cool soccer connection: his Jamaican father, Giles "Gil" Heron was the first Black player at Celtic, and played for Detroit teams in the North American Soccer League and the American Soccer League.  ESPN published a good profile on the athlete: "Heron the forgotten pioneer of US Soccer" by Frank Dell'Apa. Dell'Apa explains that Heron belonged to a generation of talented Black footballers of Caribbean descent who played in the US in the 1940s and 1950s (e.g. Haitian Joe Geitjens and Cuban Pito Viallanon). He was scouted by the Celtics while playing in American leagues - an interesting fact in and of itself as we tend to think of the current crop of Americans in the EPL as the leading wave of talent scouted from these shores, but of course that isn't true. As one might imagine, the experience was mixed - he had a fantastic record (playing mostly for the reserve squad), but his place on the team and experiences on the field were mediated by racial prejudice. Gil Heron died in December, 2008, sadly.  The Guardian's obituary offers a nice portrait of his accomplishments. In addition to being an athlete and a referee, Gil Heron was jazz musician and poet.

Below, a track from his son's album, I'm New Here.

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