Since his debut in 1969, Brooklyn-born, African-American/Puerto Rican vocalist/songwriter Garland Jeffreys has been hard to define: Is he a racial protest singer who likes reggae, or a rocker who likes the darker shade of the black-born blues? Jeffreys, 68, grew up loving doo-wop legend Frankie Lymon, hung out with rock legend Lou Reed in college and has worked with a wide range of artists that includes Dr. John, Sonny Rollins, James Taylor and Linton Kwesi Johnson. Fitting him into one musical genre is like forcing him to choose one ethnicity.
“It’s always been hard for me to feel completely at ease, but how much of that is due to being born mixed race and brought up in a community and time in history that wasn’t always OK with it is hard to gauge,” Jeffreys recently told the Arizona Republic’s Kellie Hwang. “Certainly, today things are changing for the better in terms of race relations in our country, but they aren’t by any means where they need to be in terms of eradicating racism. Songwriting and performing enabled me to move beyond my neighborhood and have a full and rewarding life.”
After taking a long hiatus to enjoy fatherhood, Jeffrey returns to the touring grind, and he brings his largely autobiographical oeuvre to the Queen, performing many of his hits, including “Don’t Call Me Buckwheat,” “Wild in the Streets” and his anthem, “Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll.” He’ll also play selections from his aptly named, critically-acclaimed 2011 CD, The King of In Between, like “The Contortionist,” a damn-near-dead-ringer for the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” and the powerful and poignant “Coney Island Winter.”
Today, Garland Jeffreys is a perfect fit for this browner, digitalized world. As he told the Republic: “I like how there’s no barrier to entry, and that it’s a much more level playing field. I think it’s a somewhat kinder and more humbled industry and much more collaborative than it used to be.”
Fri., Jan. 4, 8pm. $22. World Cafe Live at The Queen, 500 N. Market St., Wilmington, Del. 302.994.1400. queen.worldcafelive.com