Mike Heron

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Mike Heron
Birth name James Michael Heron
Born (1942-12-27) 27 December 1942 (age 73)
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar, etc.
Years active 1965-onwards
Associated acts The Incredible String Band

James Michael "Mike" Heron (born 27 December 1942) is a Scottish singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, best known for his work in the Incredible String Band in the 1960s and 1970s.


Heron was born in Edinburgh and attended George Heriot's School where his father was a teacher. He spent a year at Edinburgh University before leaving to start training as an accountant. He played in R&B and pop bands in Edinburgh, including The Saracens, and in late 1965 successfully auditioned to join a new trio, The Incredible String Band, with Robin Williamson and Clive Palmer.[1] Heron has said that "It was an exploring era in the Sixties and people were rebelling from the boring pop stuff into folk and blues and world music. You couldn't sit down and listen to Buddy Holly and pass the joint around. So we tried to make the kind of music we felt was missing from our lives, that fitted with the hippy lifestyle."[2]

Heron has also released a number of solo recordings, mostly more rock-oriented than the Incredible String Band material. The first of these, Smiling Men with Bad Reputations, released in 1971 when still a member of the ISB, took eclecticism to a new extreme, blending rock, folk and world music into an atmospheric whole. Contributing musicians included Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, Duncan Browne and Ronnie Lane (as "Tommy & The Bijoux"!), John Cale, Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks, Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg, Dudu Pukwana, Elton John, and Steve Winwood.

The Incredible String Band broke up in September 1974. With three other members of the final "electric" ISB line-up - Graham Forbes, John Gilston, and Malcolm Le Maistre - he formed the band Mike Heron's Reputation, later known simply as Heron, with whom he recorded and toured until 1977. In 1977/78, while still living in the Glen Row cottage near Innerleithen which had been the Incredible String Band's home and headquarters, he recorded songs which were eventually issued as The Glen Row Tapes. In 1979, he released a solo album on Casablanca Records, but then withdrew from performance for several years. In the 1990s he re-emerged with a new group, Mike Heron's Incredible Acoustic Band, and released the album Where The Mystics Swim.[1]

In 1997 he reunited with Williamson for some concerts, and from 1999 to 2006 performed occasionally with a reformed version of the Incredible String Band.

In March 2007, he recorded a song based on a poem by John Burnside - for the Ballads of the Book album, released by Chemikal Underground - with his daughter, the musician Georgia Seddon.

In May 2007, Mike appeared at the Barbican Centre in a tribute to the late Syd Barrett, alongside Pink Floyd, Kevin Ayers, Damon Albarn, Vashti Bunyan, The Bees, and Chrissie Hynde.

In 2008, Mike and Georgia collaborated with The Album Leaf, appearing alongside Devendra Banhart and Gilberto Gil at the Hollywood Bowl.

In 2009, the producer and former Incredible String Band manager, Joe Boyd, devised an evening held at the Barbican, that paid tribute to the songs of the ISB. Musicians performing included original ISB members Heron and Clive Palmer, as well as his daughter Georgia, Green Gartside, Richard Thompson, Alistair Roberts, Abigail Washburn, Robyn Hitchcock and the Trembling Bells; the latter with whom an ongoing association formed, including extensive touring throughout the UK and Europe. They released a reworking of Heron's song "Feast of Stephen" on the Honest Jon label.

Since 2009, Mike has collaborated and toured with artists including Robyn Hitchcock (Eden Project and the Queen Elizabeth Hall), Cass McCoombs (the Union Chapel), and Nick Pynn and Kate Daisy Grant. The Trembling Bells guitarist Mike Hastings, Georgia and violinist John Wilson are the core members of his ongoing touring band.

In July 2015, Mike is due to collaborate with the sitar player Ashraf Sharif Khan at the Berlin HKW.

He and his friend, the poet and author Andrew Greig, are currently working on their memoirs for the publisher Quercus.

Mike wrote the lyrics "May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you guide you all the way on", as part of his composition "A Very Cellular Song" in 1967. They have been adopted for use worldwide, primarily by the 3HO organisation, where it is used as a closing mantra for every Kundalini Yoga class.

Solo discography[edit]


  1. ^ a b Adrian Whittaker (ed.), Be Glad: The Incredible String Band Compendium, 2003, ISBN 1-900924-64-1
  2. ^ Tradicals by Peter Ross, Sunday Herald, 2009

External links[edit]