Jeff Buckley Presumed Dead

Last seen singing while he waded in a Memphis marina.

As midnight approached last night, police had still not

located the body of Jeff Buckley, who is believed to have drowned late Thursday

night in the Mississippi River.

Buckley, one of alternative rock's most

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

Thursday night. 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 Friday night came to a close.

Police were expected to

continue searching 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."

While police searched for Buckley's

body last night, a vigil was held outside the storefront of 122 St. Mark's

Place in New York City. This is the former location of Sin-Ž, the coffeehouse

at which Buckley first regularly performed in New York City, and where his

debut EP, Live At Sin-E, was recorded.

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 investigating 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...



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

appeared to allude to those personal problems last December in a handwritten

note posted on his official web site. "I'm in the middle of some wild shit

right now...," he wrote. "Please be patient. I'm coming soon to a cardboard

display case near you and I'll come out of my hole and will make bonfires out

of ticket stubs come the summer..."

Buckley had 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."