By Sabina Mollot
After a half century of performing in New York City and around the world, rock singer — and longtime Stuyvesant Town resident — Garland Jeffreys has announced he is retiring from the stage.
While he said he plans to do the occasional guest spot—and has planned a farewell/76th birthday concert next month with at least a dozen other singers — Jeffreys said he is now just focusing on writing and recording music.
“I’m kind of retiring,” he told Town & Village this week. “These days what I’m doing is picking and choosing. Like for example, I’m going to do something in Canada with Steven Van Zandt.”
The “Wild in the Streets” singer, who’s also shared stages with Bruce Springsteen and Lou Reed, added, “I love performing, but I’m not going to be on the treadmill, playing, playing, playing.”
This isn’t due to waning interest among his fans though; he noted a few recent shows that were sold out. Nor is his stepping away from the spotlight due to any issues with his health. “I went to the doctor last week and he said, ‘You’re in excellent health,’” said Jeffreys. “But I’m 75 years old. I’m not a young man anymore. I’ve been everywhere, all over Europe, all over United States, Japan three times.”
And he’d like to travel more, only not because he’s on tour. He and his wife, Claire, he said, have been talking about going back to Barbados on vacation, having loved it the first time. He’s also mulling the idea of working in movies. “It’s possible,” he said, without getting into detail. “Mainly I’m a musician. We’ll see how it unfolds.”
Additionally, he needs time to write the songs for his next album. His last one, “14 Steps to Harlem,” was self-released in 2017 after he crowd-sourced the money as he has been able to do for his last few albums via PledgeMusic.
“I’m always looking for ideas for songs,” said Jeffreys, who has become known for writing about issues like community and race, being bi-racial, black and Hispanic, himself. That said, when asked if he was finding any inspiration in the tumultuous political times we’re living in, Jeffreys indicated otherwise.
“I’m not in a political place these days,” he said. “I’m always interested in the subject of race, the challenge to not be afraid and to deal with it. Young African-American musicians have looked to me — I’ve been told — as a leader about this and talking freely about being a person of color. For me I’m against all kinds of hate, anti-Judaism; the hate out there these days is incredible, not to mention the president. He’s not somebody I’m interested in. There’s nothing I can do to change his reign. I can’t stomach him.”
Along with recording, Jeffreys has also been planning to make a documentary about his career, which his wife will direct.
“I had a great career starting way back in my early days in the Village,” said Jeffreys. “You can say I’ve been very fortunate; you might say blessed. My career is still ongoing. It can’t be as active as it used to be and I don’t want it to be as active as it used to be. I have a family that is very important to me.”
Along with Claire, who is also Jeffreys’ manager, Jeffreys also has a 23-year-old daughter Savannah who frequently opens for him at his concerts.
Jeffreys’ semi-retirement concert, which is being touted at his “final NYC show,” will take place on June 29 at City Winery with sets at 6 and 9 p.m. Tickets are already sold out for the later show but are still available for the earlier one at $35-$55 at citywinery.com.