Eddy Grant’s firmly established and highly respected career has been hard-earned, but his achievements speak for themselves.
Born in Guyana in 1948, Grant was exposed to a distinctive, indigenous musical style. He was not yet a teenager when his family made the decision to move to the UK: to a culturally and politically alien environment.
“I missed the absolute freedom of Guyana but being pragmatic, accepted the fact that my circumstances had changed forever, whether I liked it or not.
“It then became a matter of survival in what appeared to be a hostile country.”
Grant’s first number one hit came with his group The Equals in 1968 with the self-penned song “Baby Come Back”. However, a collapsed lung and heart infection at the exceptionally young age of twenty-one led to his departure from the group, the effects of which stayed with him. “Physically it took me some time to be able to run and play like a young man. Mentally you can never forget, and if you are smart you try to take better care.”
Thought to be one of the only major recording artists retaining the right to all their songs, Grant chose to buck the trend and find his own way. Following a period of retrospection after his ill-health, Grant established his own recording studio, allowing him to work at his own pace and to focus on the development of the artists he’d discovered.
The early musical influences of his childhood stayed with him, and he remembers the period of producing Calypso Artists as “an exciting time - a lot of hard work to create music that only a few people will hear, but I didn’t mind”.
This collision of cultures is undoubtedly one of the main factors in Grant’s success. Whilst remaining utterly devoted to his musical heritage, the combination of commercial pop overtones and music industry savvy means his influence over artists such as Sting and The Rolling Stones is still going strong.
“I make music because I like it and if others like it as well I am very pleased. There is no compromise to commerce that I experience during the making of my music; thank God.”
His commitment to the uniqueness of each work he records and produces is part of what makes his phenomenal career – spanning four decades - so enduring, believing that “if one isn’t meticulous in the construction of anything, it doesn’t last and I want the music that I make to last."
And after an absence of over 20 years, Grant has just embarked on a UK tour, including a gig at Glastonbury and performing for Nelson Mandela’s recent star-studded birthday bash in Hyde Park alongside other outstanding musicians such as Annie Lennox, Dame Shirley Bassey and Queen: “I wanted to pay respects to one of the greatest human beings to have walked the earth in my lifetime.”
Grant’s music is “about people and their circumstances” and intends that what he writes “causes a universal thought process that ends in some degree of social change.” And considering his phenomenal drive and commitment, as well as a keen business sense in an increasingly challenging commercial industry, chances are he will continue to bring this influence to bear for a long time.
‘The Very Best of Eddy Grant : Road To Reparation’ is out now on UMTV.