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Garland Jeffreys

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. ~ Mark Deming
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Truth Serum

1. Truth Serum

2. Any Rain

3. It's What I Am

4. Dragons To Slay

5. Is This The Real World

6. Ship Of Fools

7. Collide The Generations

8. Far Far Away

9. Colorblind Love

10. Revolution Of The Mind

x

Track List: The King Of In Between

2. I'm Alive

3. Streetwise

4. The Contortionist

6. 'Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me

7. Love Is Not A Cliche

8. Rock And Roll Music

10. Roller Coaster Town

11. In God's Waiting Room

12. Rock On

x

Track List: I'm Alive

1. I'm Alive

4. 35 Millimeter Dreams

5. I May Not Be Your Kind

6. Wild In The Streets

7. Spanish Town

9. Christine

10. 96 Tears

11. Rock

12. New York Skyline

13. Don't Call Me Buckwheat

14. Hail Hail Rock 'n' Roll

15. The Answer

16. Sexuality

17. Boys & Girls

18. Matador

x

Track List: Don't Call Me Buckwheat

1. Moonshine In The Cornfield

2. Welcome To The World

3. Don't Call Me Buckwheat

4. Color Line

5. Hail Hail Rock 'n' Roll

6. I Was Afraid Of Malcom

7. Bottle Of Love

8. The Answer

9. Racial Repertoire

10. Spanish Blood

11. Lonelyville

12. Murder Jubilee

13. I'm Not A Know It All

x

Track List: Garland Jeffreys

1. Ballad Of Me

2. Harlem Bound

3. Calcutta Monsoon

4. Bound To Get Ahead Someday

5. Lovelight

6. She Didn't Lie

7. True To Me

9. Eggs

10. Zoo

11. Midnite Cane

Comments

Report as inappropriate
This cat is and has been the epitome of awesomeness! Love this mans music ��
Report as inappropriate
Ever since I played One-Eyed Jack to dust on my turntable in the 1970s, I've loved Garland Jeffreys. Never hear enough of him.
Report as inappropriate
This cat is super cool!! Very much a poet as much a singer/songw r i t e r / m u s i c i a n . The album with she didn't lie, love light, ballad of me is just incredible! My mother turned me on to Garland back in the 70's... good stuff man!
Report as inappropriate
Met Garland after a show in DC over 30 years ago at the Bayou...he rocked then, and still is rocking today! Thanks, Garland for the great music!
Report as inappropriate
I was lucky to see Garland at a house concert late last year. Great show and real nice guy.
Hope to see him soon and got his latest cd.
Report as inappropriate
rozekj
the first time i heard the song i was SITTING WITH TWO FRIENDS/ ABOUT 35YEARS AGO, THEY HAD NEVER MET. RAY WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH AND CARMEN HAD NEVER SMOKED POT BEFORE. MAMA MIA!! SIGNED MARIO
Report as inappropriate

I was fortunate to see Garland Jeffreys at The Pier (Raleigh, NC) around 1982. I had been playing the grooves out of the 'Escape Artist' album. Still in my list of top 5 club shows, today!
Report as inappropriate
witedog
Fantastic show at the Highline Ballroom this past Saturday, September 25, 2010!
Didn't get to hear Spanish Town... but such a great show with Garland performing some of his very best songs and being his wonderful self. Treats also, Lou Reed and his daughter on stage as well!
Report as inappropriate
I am an old man - 55 and counting, but I love Garland Jeffreys! I have all his albums and have seen him in person twice. Garland -may peace be with you! Greg

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