Garland Jeffreys says he was thrilled to learn that he was eligible to be inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
The Brooklyn singer-songwriter, best known for gritty rock hits like “Wild in the Streets,” recalls fun nights at My Father’s Place in Roslyn with his pal Michael “Eppy” Epstein. He remembers playing a benefit in 2002 to help out East Hampton fixture Denis Craine after he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. “We had the whole town in on it and held it at the high school, with Paul Simon, Dr. John, Suzanne Vega and me,” Jeffreys said. “We raised enough money for Denis to buy a house and take care of his family of four until he passed away. Long Island has many music lovers and supportive people.”
Jeffreys, 73, will be honored for his accomplishments on Long Island and around the world when he is inducted into the Music Hall of Fame on Thursday night by his friend New York Dolls frontman David Johansen, at The Space at Westbury.
But Jeffreys, who’s in the midst of a new American tour, is seeing more interest in the social commentary of his music from the ’70s. Though “Wild in the Streets” was about a rape in the Bronx, Jeffreys says it was also his reflection on “the rage as well as the indifference of urban life.”
His classic “Why-O,” questioning issues of race and education with a memorable melody of lilting reggae, is as timely today as when it was released in 1977.
“That was based on busing being implemented in Boston,” Jeffreys said. “[It] was me wondering what it must’ve been like for a kid to experience that kind of overt racism when all they wanted to do was go to school. Unfortunately, things haven’t changed that much. Statistics say that schools in NYC are more segregated than almost anywhere in the country. . . . It’s systemic and won’t improve until everything improves.”
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Jeffreys said his interest in music that makes a difference was formed in his Brooklyn roots.
“There was music everywhere, mostly in my house, because my parents were young and listening to big band music — Dinah Washington, Count Basie,” Jeffreys said. “And, of course, there was street life and street-corner doo-wop. There was radio — Alan Freed — and once I discovered Frankie Lymon, there was no turning back. He was my idol and showed me a little guy could make it big!”
WHAT Long Island Music Hall of Fame Induction Gala
WHEN | WHERE 8:30 p.m. Thursday, The Space at Westbury, 250 Post Ave.
INFO $95-$250; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com