Biography All Music GuideWikipedia
All Music Guide:
A critically acclaimed singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, Garland Jeffreys has earned a loyal international audience for his intelligent and passionate songs, informed by a variety of musical styles from rock and R&B to reggae and dance music, and dealing with topics both personal and political, often at the same time. While not especially prolific -- he released a mere five studio albums between 1981 and 2011 -- Jeffreys' work reveals a rock & roller's soul and a poetic sensibility that have earned him the respect of musical peers such as Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen, David Johansen, and John Cale.
Jeffreys was born in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, New York in 1944. Of African-American, Puerto Rican, and European heritage, he was raised in a multi-cultural household and a neighborhood that was not always accepting of his family's racial diversity. Jeffreys' parents enjoyed jazz vocalists such as Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, and Dinah Washington, and as a teenager, he developed a taste for doo wop and rhythm & blues; as the '50s gave way to the '60s, he became a passionate fan of soul music and Bob Dylan's early work. After graduating from high school, Jeffreys studied art history at Syracuse University, where he struck up friendships with fellow students and music fans Lou Reed and Felix Cavaliere; Jeffreys also expanded his cultural boundaries by studying for several months in Italy. After completing his studies in 1966, he began appearing at folk and rock clubs in Manhattan, often performing material that dealt with racial issues and using props and make-up to emphasize his messages. In 1969, Jeffreys formed a band called Grinder's Switch with three musicians from Woodstock, New York -- Ernie Corallo on guitar, Stan Szelest on keyboards, and Sandy Konikoff on drums. John Cale recruited Grinder's Switch to form the core of the backing band (credited as Penguin) on his first solo album, 1969's Vintage Violence, and the album included one of Jeffreys' songs, "Fairweather Friend." (Jeffreys also wrote a poem about Cale for the liner notes.) Grinder's Switch were signed to Vanguard Records and cut an album that was released not long before the band split up in 1970.
Jeffreys began working as a solo act again, and was signed by Atlantic Records. His 1973 solo debut was a commercial disappointment, but that same year, he released a standalone single, "Wild in the Streets" b/w "35 Millimeter Dreams." The A-side, arranged by New Orleans keyboard legend Dr. John, became an underground hit, and when Jeffreys moved to A&M Records, the track was included on his first album for the label, 1977's Ghost Writer, which led to Jeffreys being named Best New Artist of the Year by Rolling Stone. Jeffreys' tenure with A&M would be the most prolific of his career; he released One Eyed Jack in 1978, and American Boy and Girl in 1979. The latter, though largely devoted to hard-edged narratives of street life, also featured a romantic number called "Matador," which became a major hit in the U.K. and several European markets, where he gained a large and lasting following.
In 1981, Jeffreys moved to Epic Records and finally enjoyed a commercial breakthrough in the United States with Escape Artist, an album that featured backing from members of Graham Parker's Rumour and Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band, as well as guest appearances by Lou Reed, David Johansen, and Linton Kwesi Johnson; it included a cover of "96 Tears" that became a minor hit single and an MTV favorite. Later the same year, a live album was released from the tour supporting Escape Artist, Rock N' Roll Adult, and in 1983, Jeffreys reappeared with Guts for Love, a polished set of songs about love and relationships. While a cover of "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" fared well on the charts, the album was a commercial and critical disappointment, and it was nine years before Jeffreys returned to the recording studio. 1992's Don't Call Me Buckwheat, his first album for RCA, was a collection of songs about the issues of race in America and a strong return to form, but it sold far better in Europe than the United States, and his next album, 1997's Wildlife Dictionary, wasn't released at all in America.
In the same year Wildlife Dictionary was released, Jeffreys and his wife welcomed the birth of their daughter Savannah, and he took time off from his recording career to be a full-time father. He staged occasional European tours and in 2006 released I'm Alive, a compilation spanning his solo career that also included three new songs, but it wasn't until 2011 that he returned with a full album of new material, The King of In Between.
Garland Jeffreys (born 1943, Brooklyn, New York) is a part African-American, and Puerto Rican American, singer and songwriter, transversing the musical genres of rock and roll, reggae, blues and soul.
Jeffreys is from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. He majored in art history at Syracuse University where he met Lou Reed, before The Velvet Underground became active. In 1966, Jeffreys began to play in Manhattan nightclubs including Gerde's Folk City, The Bitter End, Gaslight, Kenny's Castaways, and later Reno Sweeney, where he began to explore racially conscious themes in his work, sometimes utilizing blackface masks and a rag doll named Ramon in performance. Jeffreys played guitar on John Cale's 1969 debut solo album Vintage Violence and contributed the song "Fairweather Friend". In 1969 he founded Grinder's Switch with Woodstock-area musicians including pianist Stan Szelest, guitarist Ernie Corallo, and percussionist Sandy Konikoff. Lew Merenstein produced this one album before the band dissolved in 1970.
In 1973, he released his first solo album, Garland Jeffreys, on Atlantic Records. Around the same time Atlantic also released a single, "Wild in the Streets", that was not included on the album. Jeffreys wrote the song after hearing about a pre-teen rape and murder in the Bronx. Dr. John played clavinet and helped arrange the song, with backing from guitarist David Spinozza, drummer Rick Marotta, the Brecker Brothers on horns and David Peel on background vocals. The track received airplay on the progressive FM album-oriented rock stations, and has become one of his best-known songs.
"Wild in the Streets" has become something of an unofficial anthem for the skate community and been covered by several musicians, including:The Circle Jerks, on their album Wild in the StreetsChris Spedding, on the album HurtBritish Lions, on their album British LionsHot Water Music, on the album Til the Wheels Fall OffHurriganes, on Fortissimo
In 1977 Garland recorded his Ghost Writer album for A&M Records, with "Wild in the Streets" included on side two. All the tracks are autobiographical, encompassing bittersweet tales about coming of age as an artist in the big city ("Ghost Writer"), of racial separatism ("Why-O"), of interracial romance ("I May Not Be Your Kind"), and of overcoming conflict at home ("Cool Down Boy").
The next years saw a string of albums, five within five years, and the release of "Matador" which charted in the top five of a number of countries. This burst of productivity culminated with Guts for Love, a meditation on the challenges of monogamy and fidelity. After a long hiatus, much of it spend woodshedding, reading and researching, Jeffreys released Don't Call Me Buckwheat, devoted to the complexities of race in America. The title was triggered by an incident at Shea Stadium where Jeffreys was enjoying the game and feeling carefree. He stood to go get a hotdog when a voice shouted "Hey buckwheat, sit down!" The casual epithet was a jolt and it spurred a number of memorable songs including "Don't Call Me Buckwheat, " "I Was Afraid of Malcolm," "Racial Repertoire." In February 1992, Jeffreys' recording of "Hail Hail Rock 'n' Roll" (RCA PB49171), spent one week at #72 in the UK Singles Chart.
Jeffreys was featured in the 2003 documentary The Soul of a Man, directed by Wim Wenders as the fourth installment of the documentary film series The Blues produced by Martin Scorsese. The film explored the musical careers of blues musicians Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J. B. Lenoir. Jeffreys was also featured on the cover of Beyond Race Magazine in February 2007. "Wild in the Streets" can be heard in the 2012 video game Max Payne 3.
On May 28, 2012, at the Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf, Holland, Jeffreys joined Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band onstage for a performance of ? and the Mysterians' 1966 hit "96 Tears", which Jeffreys had covered on his 1980 album "Escape Artist".