You mean on Songs From Detroit.
The words ‘When Donny was in his prime…’ was the very first germ of the idea. Everything sprang from that. The singer is Eddie Powell, a black man from rural South Carolina. I actually have a vivid memory of Eddie as a child as in real life he was both grandparents’ and my parents’ handyman. I always got the impression that he was always quietly observing everything with a laugh. I don’t recall his voice, so much as his look and manner. He had a face as black as the first Africans and as deeply lined as an old baseball glove. So when he laughed, the bright light from his teeth on a summer’s day was a fascinating contrast. I was not consciously emulating anything. But when I cam up with that line, that was the voice I heard—and it was Eddie singing.
I now have the notion that on some subconscious level it was probably me channeling Robert Plant channeling Sonny Boy Williamson. Which is a hard thing to admit, but as a six year old, that’s my cartoonish memory of the only black American I’d yet encountered.