“This song and the album it’s on ‘Don’t Call Me Buckwheat’ changed my life and my perspective on race.
I was born in Hendon, Sunderland. When I was growing up I used to get the bus across town on my own. When I was nine I saw a black man on the bus. It was the first time I had seen anyone who wasn’t white and I was amazed. Black people looked different and I thought they were different. I wasn’t racist, just ignorant.
Fast forward a few years and I used to play 5-a-side football with the lads at Washington Leisure Centre and we would go to the pub afterwards. One night this track came on and I was intrigued. I went to a record shop in Sunderland where they got their big folder out to see what was in stock. The guy behind the counter told me they didn’t have the single but I could buy the album. Usually when you do that you like one song and the rest are rubbish. This album was different. It opened my eyes up to why we shouldn’t be racist and we should respect people whatever the colour of their skin. It changed my perspective totally and taught me a lot.
When I had kids I wrote to Garland and told him how influential his album had been and promised I would raise my kids up not to discriminate.
Me and my wife went to see him when he was in Newcastle in 2014. He’s amazing. He’s in his seventies but no way does he have the voice of an old man.
We sat in the front row and talked to him after the gig. He told us all about his life in the US and even invited us to stay with him in New York. Amazing man. Amazing song. Amazing album.”
Photo: Southwick, Sunderland