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
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
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.
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
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."