Great To See Garland Jeffreys Still Going Strong



Garland Jeffreys has been falling through the cracks of the music scene for almost 50 years now. He is another highly talented artist who has suffered the negative consequences of not fitting neatly into a category box. More people ought to know who he is. Since the late sixties his music has careened through folk, Rock, blues, reggae and soul, and he’s maybe the only artist I can think of who has credibility in both the punk movement and the civil rights movement. I was happy to discover this week that he’s got a new album coming out in April.

Jeffreys was born 73 years ago to parents of mixed heritage in Brooklyn, N.Y. In the early 1960s he attended Syracuse University where he met and befriended Lou Reed, and the two clearly had a deep influence on one another. By the late Sixties he was playing the folk clubs in Greenwich Village, and in 1973 he released his first solo album as well as the single “Wild In The Streets”. This hard-to-classify song may be his most famous track ever. It was re-released in 1977 on the landmark Ghost Writer album, and was adopted by punk rockers. The Circle Jerks’ cover of it remains a skater punk anthem to this day.

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A central theme in Jeffreys’ work throughout his career has been racial justice, and his songs often speak to greater understanding and caring between people of all backgrounds. From his great 1992 album Don’t Call Me Buckwheat, I always loved the track “Hail Hail Rock ‘N’ Roll”, which mashed some musical styles together in a heartfelt tribute to how the early Rock & Roll heroes brought black and white really together for the first time in American history.

Over the years Garland Jeffries has collaborated with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, both separately and together, as well as U2, Lou Reed, John Cale, Dr. John, Sonny Rollins, Michael Brecker, and James Taylor among others. Twice during his career Jeffries took 10-year breaks to spend with his family, which sounds like an incredibly healthy and smart thing to do. And now he’s got an album called 14 Steps To Harlem coming out on April 28, and it sounds pretty interesting.

The title track is a simple soul groove about his family history, which can often be a very cheesy subject for a song, but it’s the kind of thing that rings so authentic coming from a guy like Jeffreys. And there’s just something so appealing about the sound of his 80s-style rocker “When You Call My Name”, you can find that one on Spotify. He covers The Beatles’ “Help” on the album, and he also covers “Waiting For The Man”, keeping the fires burning for his dearest friend and deepest influence, Lou Reed. Hail, hail, Rock & Roll.

Photo by Myriam Santos (http://www.myriamsantos.com), who has released the image under an acceptable free license.

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2 comments to “Great To See Garland Jeffreys Still Going Strong”
  1. came to Garland’s work, believe it or not, via the Circle Jerks!! then, connected the dots to Lou; which just made Garland authentic. now, he’s my fav (next to Lou, natch!)! amazing lyrics and one of the best grooves around.

    • This is Garland, and I want to thank you for coming into the fold! Hope to see you at a show down the line.

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