Arena Grant-ed a visit by steady Eddy

EDDY Grant admits that putting his messages to a good melody in order for that message to be more memorable was a deliberate choice, writes Martin Hutchinson.

"It's like wrapping a bitter pill in something sweet. It makes it more palatable," says the reggae superstar who opens for UB40 at Sheffield Arena tonight.

Eddy has certainly been getting his messages to the masses for a while now – Apartheid song Gimme Hope Jo'anna and anti-war songs such as War Party and Living On The Front Line.

He says he could never be a politician, though. "I'm a musician. I love making music. And I love people. That's why I put some social commentary in my songs from time to time."

Although known as a reggae musician primarily, Grant's influences betray a wider appeal – the likes of Chuck Berry, James Brown, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters and Louis Armstrong.

"Yes, I'm originally a trumpet player and I came through trad jazz and classical music."

Eddy founded The Equals in 1968 and had a chart-topper with Baby Come Back, later covered by Pato Banton, and Viva Bobby Joe before Eddy left in 1971 because of ill-health.

He went home to Guyana after suffering a collapsed lung and a heart infection. Fully recovered, he began a solo career and the influential Ice Record label.

He also owned property, including Chapeltown Methodist Church.

In 1979 Living On The Front Line began his string of hits which included the chart-topping I Don't Wanna Dance, Do You Feel My Love and Electric Avenue.

He is reluctant to pick out one that he's particularly proud of. "I respect all my songs and sometimes you appreciate some things about one song and other things about another; it's a bit like asking which of your children you like best.

"However, on stage I play War Party, not because it was my biggest hit, but because it's quite articulate and I enjoy playing it because more people get the point of it."

Appearances have included Glastonbury, the Montreux Jazz Festival and Nelson Mandela's birthday concert. Earlier this year he performed at the finale of the IFL cricket tournament in South Africa and has recorded the song Bafana Bafana for the football World Cup next year.

"My touring has been in a bit of a wasteland in the past few years, so I'd like to tour as much as possible in the future," adds Eddy, who turned 60 last year.

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