The son of the late Tim Buckley, the romantic, late-'60s/early-'70s-rock
cult favorite Jeff Buckley possessed a near-operatic singing voice
and songwriting talents that merged the best elements of melodic and hard
Jeffrey Scott Buckley was born Nov. 17, 1966, in Anaheim, Calif. The only
son of Mary Guibert and Tim Buckley, he was raised by his mother and
stepfather in Orange County.
Buckley's mother loved music, and she passed on the passion to him. He
grew up listening to hard rock and to folk rockers such as Van Morrison.
The first LP he owned was Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti.
After moving to Los Angeles, Buckley completed a two-year course at the
Musicians' Institute. He then played in a number of bands in L.A., including
the reggae group Shinehead.
In 1990 Buckley moved to New York, where he met Gods and Monsters guitarist
Gary Lucas at a Brooklyn tribute to his father. Buckley joined Gods and
Monsters and was a part of the band for two years before embarking on a
solo career playing mostly cover songs in East Village clubs. One of these
performances, at the St. Mark's Place Irish club Sin-e, was immortalized
on Live at Sin-e (1993), after Buckley was noticed by Columbia
Records executives, who signed him in 1992.
That gave Buckley the opportunity to prove he was more than just a great
voice. His own compositions dominated his studio debut, Grace
(1994). The rapturously reviewed LP featured such sweeping noise-rock-meets-balladry
tracks as "Mojo Pin," "Lover, You Should've Come Over" and "Dream Brother."
It made many critics' best-of-the-year lists. The following year, another
of the LP's tracks, "Last Goodbye" (RealAudio
excerpt), received substantial alternative-rock radio airplay.
Buckley took his time working on a follow-up while his fanbase and
reputation grew. At first, he worked with Television's Tom Verlaine as
producer, but the veteran rocker left the project, tentatively titled
My Sweetheart the Drunk. Buckley resumed recording in Memphis,
Tenn., in spring 1997. On May 29 of that year, he went swimming with a
friend in the Mississippi River. In minutes, Buckley disappeared in the
current. His body was found a few days later.
Last year, with the help of Buckley's mother, Columbia issued unfinished
material from the LP that Buckley had been recording at the time of his
death. Titled Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, the CD included
more angst-driven, hymnlike rockers, such as "The Sky Is a Landfill" and
the jazzy "Everybody Here Wants You." The album sold moderately well,
thanks to the cult following Buckley had gained before his death.
Buckley's mother and former bandmates Michael Tighe and Mick Grondhal are
planning a live Buckley release for 2000. Tighe, who now plays in Those
Bastard Souls and Black Beetle, said "I learned so much from Jeff just
from being exposed to him. Those are the things that grounded me in music
the most. Seeing him work made me know that's what I need to do."
Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page said of Buckley: "We played together
at a festival. It was in Australia, the last tour that he did. He was
astonishing. It was a great, great loss."
Beth Orton, Tighe and other musicians will perform at the "Jeff Buckley
Birthday Tribute Event" on Wednesday (Nov. 17) at the Angel Orensanz
Foundation Center for the Arts in New York.
Other birthdays on Wednesday: Gordon Lightfoot, 61; Bob Gaudio (Four
Seasons), 57; Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), 53; Peter Cox (Go West), 44;
Jim Babjak (Smithereens), 42; Harry Rushakoff (Concrete Blonde), 40;
RuPaul, 39; Ronald DeVoe (New Edition, Bel Biv DeVoe); 32; Jeffrey Allen
(Mint Condition), 31; Isaac Hanson (Hanson), 19; Gene Clark (Byrds),
19411991; and Dino Martin, Jr. (Dino, Desi & Billy), 19531987.