Published in The Sunday Gleaner, June 28, 2015
Book Title: Gil Scott-Heron, A Father and Son Story
Book Author: Leslie Gordon Goffe
Book Publisher: LMH Publishing Limited
words fail to convey the potency of a literary work. Sometimes a book
hits home with such force and beauty that it is difficult to describe or
relate it to another.
Enter Leslie Gordon Goffe with his literary offering, Gil Scott-Heron, A Father and Son Story.
His is a telling that sheds light on the lives of two significant,
albeit little-known, characters of Jamaican heritage: Gillie Heron, the
father, and Gil Scott-Heron, the son. With a fresh tone and unique
writing style, Goffe draws parallels from two disjointed lives, pulling
readers into the world of the broken black man, and chronicling with
painstaking detail the journey of two searching souls in an era riddled
with tensions of class, race and gender.
Goffe has clearly done
his homework: his extensive use of historic references and depth of
detail create a compelling picture of the world his subjects had to
endure. Every account is steeped in vivid contextualisation - from
newspaper reports to the first-hand retellings of those who lived the
stories as they unfolded.
His chronicling of time is fluid. The prologue starts, "I'll begin at the beginning." The final chapter declares, "I'll end at the ending." In-between, Goffe buoys readers along on wave after wave of an epic tale that lays out the lives of two men fighting vices.
were outstandingly gifted: Gillie Heron was the first black person to
play professional football in the United States, while Gil Scott-Heron,
called 'the godfather of rap', was awarded the 2012 Grammy Lifetime
But both men struggled with drugs, women, and questions of identity, giving credence to Scott-Heron's potent line: "My
life has been one of running away just as fast as I can. But I've been
no more successful at getting away than was my old man." In fact, the theme of escapism is rife throughout the book.
Everything about Gil Scott-Heron, A Father and Son Story,
delivers artistry - from the design of the cover to the smooth prose,
written like jazz beats punctuated with quotes and rhymes - a unique
style that reads like a story-song. The tone is set from the foreword,
written by popular jazz musician, Brian Jackson, who urges his audience
to, "Read on, read on and you will find out what is behind the microphone, behind the music, behind the man, behind the men ... ."
Each chapter is presented with dramatic flair, with titles taken from some of Scott-Heron's most well-known works, such as Pieces of a Man (the title of his debut album) and He Was New There (based on the title of his 2010 album, I'm New Here).
The start of each chapter also features quotations from a wide range of
persons, including Scarlett O'Hara, Muse, B.B. King, and Snoop Dogg.
knew a whole book could countenance music through prose? In one
rhythmically versatile creation, Leslie Gordon Goffe has delivered a
history lesson, a jazz concert, and a poetry recitation.
sense, the book makes for easy reading because the language is so
simple. However, the poetic resonance echoing through its pages carries a
depth which may not be readily appreciated by non-literary audiences.
Also, the roughly 229 pages of lengthy reading may prove laborious for
those who want to get to the heart of the story without the
embellishment of such a sing-song literary style.
in the fact that each chapter is broken down into digestible
subsections, and for the visually inclined, there are eight pages of
photos chronicling the history of the Scott-Heron family.
the many smiling faces in these photos, Goffe makes it clear that
Scott-Heron's history has been fraught with ups and downs, ins and outs,
reflective of the yin and yang of life. Was he right in some of the
choices he made in his life? Was his father?
The book itself ends with a hauntingly ironic quote: "It ain't right and it ain't wrong. It just is."