Garland Jeffreys

Various | 2016

As a child of black, white, and Puerto Rican heritage growing up in the 1950s, Garland Jeffreys was raised on everything from R&B to the first bursts of rock and roll to “God Bless America” crooner Kate Smith. Once he started making his own music, Jeffreys never became any easier to nail down. As a folkie, he played Village nightspots like the Bitter End and the Gaslight, before recording his first album as a member of the short-lived Woodstock-based group Grinder’s Switch for Vanguard in 1970. In 1973, he went solo with a self-titled Atlantic debut that included the likes of Dr. John and his band among the session musicians. A single was released that same year that became a signature song, “Wild in the Streets.” In 1981, he reached No. 5 on the rock chart with a cover of “96 Tears,” the classic by Question Mark and the Mysterians. He would go on to release Guts for Love (1983), an album-sized meditation on love and fidelity, and Don’t Call Me Buckwheat (1992), which took the preoccupation with race that’d long factored into his songs and extended it to feature length. His latest album, 2017’s 14 Steps to Harlem, is filled with autobiographical narratives that refer back to Jeffreys’ occasionally rough but fondly recalled Brooklyn upbringing, as well as songs that salute his adult friendships with peers such as Lou Reed, Bob Marley, John Lennon, and Joe Strummer.

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