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,
"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
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
In the same interview, after saying that many of his "songs
are about being alive," Buckley continued: "There's so many countless
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."