As a fresh-faced 16-year-old, Eddy Grant saw his life change the day his friend bought him a ticket to see Chuck Berry live in London. Electrified, he would soon form The Equals and top the UK singles chart with Baby, Come Back.
The Eighties saw him go on to become one of the UK’s most beloved stars. He combined reggae, electric pop, rock and funk to produce hits in the form of Electric Avenue, I Don’t Wanna Dance and anti-apartheid song Gimme Hope Jo’Anna.
Born in British Guiana, Eddy Grant, now 73, had come to the UK in 1960, part of the Windrush generation. He joined The Big Issue on The Music That Made Me to take us on a tour of his path to Electric Avenue.
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Seeing Chuck Berry live in London in 1964
I was a fan of The Rolling Stones, and I got into furious argument with a friend defending them. He said to me, ‘You don’t know nothing, man. They are doing a lot of Black people’s music.’
Chuck Berry was coming over to the play at the Finsbury Park Astoria [in North London]. We were the only two Black people in the auditorium. Then the MC said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the man you’ve been waiting for – Chuck Berry!’ And my life changed.
He walked on stage and lifted his guitar up in the air, as I tend to do now, and said, ‘Hello, England.’ Well, I think those were the last words I really heard because the place erupted. It was all rockers –leather-jacketed, young studs – and they were going crazy like girls. Screaming, wrecking the place. And I found myself as one of them.