Rocker Jeff Buckley Presumed Drowned In Mississippi River

Jeff Buckley, one of alternative rock's most

widely respected new voices, has been missing since he took a late-night

swim in the Mississippi River late Thursday and is presumed drowned.

The 30-year-old singer-songwriter was last seen wading in a Memphis

marina in the Mud Island Harbor area adjoining the infamously dangerous

waters. The Memphis Police Department launched an extensive search

shortly after a friend who was with him at the marina reported Buckley

missing Thursday night. Scuba divers attempts to drag the river had

turned up no signs of Buckley's body as of Friday afternoon.

Police were expected to continue searching into the night for the rocker

who had shown such promise with his critically acclaimed debut album,

Grace.

"My songs are about being alive," Buckley told this writer during a 1994

interview. "The whole world is so anti-life, especially a world ruled by

men who don't want to sit, listen and understand what life is all about."

Police said that Buckley and an unidentified companion were playing guitar,

and singing, while listening to the radio when Jeff decided to go into

the river with his clothes on. He'd gotten up to his waist and was still

singing when a

boat came by and caused the river to stir, creating waves, his friend

told police. Buckley's friend also told investigting officers that he

asked Buckley to come back on the bank, but that there were no signs he

was in trouble at the time.

The companion went back to the bank to move the radio so it didn't

get wet from the waves and when he turned around Buckley was gone. He

searched the river for 10 minutes before calling police around 9:30 or 10

p.m. to file a missing person's report. It is not clear whether the

waters he was swimming were open to the public, or why the two had chosen

to go for a dip there.

Columbia, the singer's label for which he was doing some pre-recording

work for his planned second album at the time of the incident, is waiting

to see what police come up with before issuing an official statement. But

the treacherous conditions of the stream -- along with personal problems

that Buckley apparently hasn't been able to shake -- have more than

likely given label executives, family, friends and fans cause for alarm.

Buckley hd begun working on material for his long-awaited sophomore

effort at Memphis's Easely Studios on Thursday. Former

Television leader Tom Verlaine (who toured with Patti Smith last year)

was originally slated to produce the

project, but that partnership was scrapped in March when Buckley decided he

needed more time to come up with material for the album. Recording with Andy

Wallace -- who produced Buckley's phenomenal debut -- was scheduled to

begin at the end of June. The not- yet- titled album was slated for an

early 1998 release.

Although the songwriter already had more than two-dozen compositions ready

to go, he wanted to spend the next month preparing himself for the

production of the album. Buckley most recently appeared on a track

featuring Inger Lorre on Rykodisc's Jack Kerouac tribute, Kicks Joy

Darkness. He was also set to contribute a song to Hal Willner's

forthcoming Edgar Allan Poe tribute alongside Lou Reed, Diamanda Galas and

Leonard Cohen; and was also to appear on the First Love, Last

Rites soundtrack.

Buckley received worldwide recognition following the release of his

stunning 1994 Columbia debut, Grace. Rising out of New York's

Greenwich Village folk scene, his first recorded output was a raw

performance EP called Live At Sin-E, which deftly showcased his

mesmerizing voice and dazzling guitar skills. The disc brought the singer

many comparisons to his

father, '60s folk troubadour Tim Buckley, who tragically, and perhaps

ironically, died young from a heroin overdose in 1975. The younger

Buckley had only seen his father once while he was alive and worked hard

to disassociate himself from his legacy.

In the 1994 interview, which took place following the release of

Grace, Buckley said, "I came

into music completely when I was born and fell in love with it and it

became my mother and my father and my playmate when I was really young,

when I had nothing. My father didn't have anything to do with it. I met him

one time, and a couple months later he died. But between that he never

wrote and never called and I didn't even get invited to the funeral.

There's just no connection, really. I'm sure people will fill in the blanks

and make up the kind of myth that they want to. I wish I did get to talk to

him."

In the same interview, after saying that many of his "songs

are about being alive," Buckley continued: "There's so many countless

details to

just being alive that just knowing what love is or what pain is or what the

reason is for all this amazing wonder and really hard, hard lessons that

you've really got to be serious about. Or else you're just fucking around.

There's too much of that to be still, either psychically, or physically

burning crosses, or lynching people, or coercing people, or murdering people

or sending people into murder. All that useless shit. If you really think

this is where it's at, then it's too late for you."