Jeff Buckley

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Jeff Buckley (November 17, 1966May 29, 1997), born Jeffrey Scott Buckley and raised as Scotty Moorhead, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

Known for his ethereal singing voice, Buckley was considered by critics to be one of the most promising artists of his generation after the release of his critically acclaimed 1994 debut album Grace. However, at the height of his popularity, Buckley drowned during an evening swim in 1997. His work and style continue to be highly regarded by critics and fellow musicians.



Early life

Born in Anaheim, California, Jeff Buckley was the only son of Mary Guibert and Tim Buckley. His mother was a Panama Canal Zonian of mixed Greek, French, American and Panamanian descent, while his father was the descendant of Irish immigrants from Cork. His father was also a singer-songwriter who released a series of highly acclaimed folk and jazz albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s. About his father Buckley said, "I never knew him." "I met him once, when I was 8."

Jeff Buckley was raised by his mother and stepfather of only 2 years, Ron Moorhead, in Southern California, and had a half-brother Corey Moorhead.<ref>Browne (2001), pp. 62-63</ref> Buckley moved many times in and around Orange County while growing up with a single mother, an upbringing Buckley exaggeratedly called "rootless trailer trash".<ref>Vaziri, Aidin (1994). "Jeff Buckley". Raygun Magazine. Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> As a child, Jeff Buckley was known as Scott "Scotty" Moorhead based on his middle name and his stepfather's surname.<ref name="Browne2001p58"/> After his father died, he chose to go by Buckley and his real first name which he found on a birth certificate.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 68</ref> To members of his family he remained "Scotty".<ref>Kane (1998, 1999), "Scott Moorhead = Jeff Buckley". Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref>

Buckley was brought up around music. His mother was a classically trained pianist and cellist.<ref name="TributeProgram">(April 26, 1991). "Greetings from Tim Buckley program". St. Ann's Church. Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> His stepfather introduced him to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and Pink Floyd at an early age.<ref name="TheArrivalof">Flanagan, Bill. (February 1994). "The Arrival of Jeff Buckley". Musician Magazine. p. 100. Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> Buckley grew up singing around the house and singing in harmony with his mother.<ref>Rogers, Ray (February, 1994). "Jeff Buckley: Heir Apparent to ...". Interview Magazine. Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> "Everybody in my family sang,"<ref>Yates, Amy Beth (October/November 1994). "Painting with Words". B-Side Magazine, pp. 26-27. Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> Buckley said. He found an acoustic guitar in his grandmother's closet that he started playing with at the age of 6.<ref name="TributeProgram" /> Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti was the first album he ever owned.<ref name="TheSonAlsoRises">Diehl, Matt (October 20, 1994). "The Son Also Rises: Fighting the Hype and Weight of His Father's Legend, Jeff Buckley Finds His Own Voice On Grace". Rolling Stone. Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> The hard rock band Kiss was also an early favorite.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 64</ref> At the age of 12, he decided to become a musician.<ref name="TheSonAlsoRises"/> He received his first electric guitar, an imitation black Gibson Les Paul, at the age of 13.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 67</ref> By high school, Buckley had developed an affinity for progressive rock bands such as Rush, Genesis, and Yes, as well as jazz fusion guitarist Al Di Meola.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 70</ref> Buckley played in the school jazz band.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 69</ref>

In 1984, Buckley graduated from high school and moved north to Hollywood to attend the Musicians Institute.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 95</ref> He graduated from the one-year course at the age of 18.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 97</ref> "It was the biggest waste of time,"<ref name="TheSonAlsoRises"/> Buckley once stated about the school. However, Buckley did appreciate studying music theory there saying, "I was attracted to really interesting harmonies, stuff that I would hear in Ravel, Ellington, Bartók."<ref>Farrar, Josh. (February 29, 1996) "DoubleTake Magazine Interview".</ref> "He had some of the most interesting chords and chord progressions of my generation,"<ref>Hammond, Shawn. (June 2006). "Both Barrels Blasting". Acoustic Guitar.</ref> musician Ben Harper said about Buckley years later.

Buckley spent the next 6 years working in a hotel and playing guitar in various struggling bands, spanning a diverse range of styles from jazz, reggae, and roots rock to heavy metal;<ref>Browne (2001), pp. 99-103</ref> he also played the occasional funk and R&B studio session<ref>Browne (2001), pp. 98-99</ref> and toured with the dancehall reggae artist Shinehead.<ref>Kane (1998, 1999), "What was his musical history?". Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> All the time, Buckley limited his singing only to backing vocals.

Early career

Jeff Buckley moved to New York City in February 1990,<ref>Browne (2001), p. 104</ref> but found few opportunities to work as a musician.<ref>Browne (2001), pp. 106-107</ref> He was introduced to Qawwali, the devotional music of India and Pakistan, and to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, one of its most well-known singers.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 106</ref> Buckley became a great admirer of Khan.<ref> Young, Paul (1994). "Talking Music: Confessing to Strangers". Buzz Magazine. Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> Buckley also became interested in hardcore punk rock and blues-legend Robert Johnson during this time.<ref name="TributeProgram" /> Buckley moved back to Los Angeles in September when his father's former manager, Herb Cohen, offered to help him record his first demo of original songs.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 108</ref> Buckley completed Babylon Dungeon Sessions, a five song cassette that included the songs "Eternal Life" and "Unforgiven" (later titled "Last Goodbye"<ref name="bp205">Browne (2001), p. 205</ref>).<ref>Browne (2001), pp. 108-109</ref> Cohen and Buckley hoped to attract attention from the music industry with the demo tape.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 109</ref>

Buckley flew back to New York the following spring to make his public singing debut at a tribute concert for his father called "Greetings from Tim Buckley".<ref name="bpp130-134">Browne (2001), pp. 130-134</ref> The event, produced by show business veteran Hal Willner, was held at St. Ann's Church in Brooklyn on April 26, 1991.<ref name="bpp130-134" /> Jeff Buckley chose simply to pay his respects to his father saying, "This is not a springboard, this is something very personal."<ref>"Kane (1998, 1999), "What was Jeff's public debut?". Retrieved on February 9, 2007.</ref> He performed "I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain", a song Tim Buckley wrote about an infant Jeff Buckley and his mother, accompanied by experimental rock guitarist Gary Lucas.<ref name="bpp136-137">Browne (2001), pp. 136-137</ref> Buckley returned to the stage to play "Sefronia - The King's Chain", "Phantasmagoria in Two", and concluded the concert with "Once I Was" performed acoustically with an impromptu a cappella ending.<ref name="bpp136-137" /> "He blew the whole place away,"<ref name="ManishBoy">Arcade, Penny (June 1997). "Manish boy, setting sun". Rolling Stone. Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> Willner recalled. When questioned about that particular performance Buckley said, "It wasn't my work, it wasn't my life. But it bothered me that I hadn't been to his funeral, that I'd never been able to tell him anything. I used that show to pay my last respects."<ref name="TheSonAlsoRises"/> Ironically, the concert proved to be his first step into the music industry that had eluded him for years.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 138</ref>

On subsequent trips to New York in the summer of 1991, Buckley began co-writing with Gary Lucas resulting in the songs "Grace" and "Mojo Pin",<ref>Browne (2001), pp. 140-141</ref> and by fall began performing with Lucas' band Gods and Monsters around New York City.<ref>Kane (1998, 1999) "Jeff Buckley Tourography: 1991-1993". Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> After being offered a development deal with Gods and Monsters at Imago Records, Buckley moved back to New York to the Lower East Side at the end of 1991.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 142</ref> The day after Gods and Monsters officially debuted in March 1992, Buckley decided to leave the band.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 146</ref>

Buckley began performing at several clubs and cafés around Lower Manhattan,<ref>"Testa, Jim. (1993). Making It In New York: Jeff Buckley". New Jersey Beat Magazine. Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> but Sin-é in the East Village became his main venue.<ref name="TheArrivalof" /> Buckley first appeared at the small Irish café in April 1992,<ref name="bp165">Browne (2001), p. 165</ref> and quickly earned a regular Monday night slot there.<ref name="bp167">Browne (2001), p. 167</ref> His repertoire consisted of a diverse range of folk, rock, R&B, blues and jazz cover songs, much of it music he had newly learned.<ref name="bp166">Browne (2001), p. 166</ref> Singers such as Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Van Morrison, and Judy Garland became his teachers.<ref name="bp166" /> Buckley performed favorites from Led Zeppelin, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Bob Dylan, Elton John, The Smiths, Bad Brains, Leonard Cohen, Édith Piaf, Robert Johnson, and Sly Stone as well.<ref name="bp166" /><ref name="bp167" /><ref>Bessman, Jim. (July 16, 1994). "Grace review" Billboard. Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref><ref name="bp205" /> "I became a human jukebox,"<ref name="TheSonAlsoRises"/> Buckley said. Included were his original songs from Babylon Dungeon Sessions, and the songs he'd written with Gary Lucas.<ref name="bp166" /> He performed solo, accompanying himself on a borrowed Fender Telecaster.<ref name="bp165" /> "I figured if I played in the no-man's land of intimacy, I would learn to be a performer,"<ref name="TheUnmadeStar"/> Buckley said.

Over the next few months, Buckley attracted admiring crowds and attention from record label executives.<ref>Browne (2001), pp. 170-171</ref> Industry maven Clive Davis even dropped by to see him.<ref name="TheUnmadeStar"/> By the summer of 1992, limos from executives eager to sign the singer lined the street outside Sin-é.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 171</ref> Buckley signed with Columbia Records, home of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen,<ref>Browne (2001), p. 174</ref> for a three-album, essentially million-dollar<ref>Browne (2001), p. 173</ref> deal in October 1992.<ref>Browne (2001), pp. 177-179</ref> Recording dates were set for July and August 1993 for what would become Buckley's recording debut, an EP of four songs.<ref>Browne (2001), pp. 199-200</ref> Live at Sin-é was released on November 23, 1993, documenting this period of Buckley's life.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 223</ref>


In the summer of 1993, Jeff Buckley began working on his first album with record producer Andy Wallace,<ref>Browne (2001), p. 202</ref> who had mixed Nirvana's multi-platinum album Nevermind.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 201</ref> Buckley assembled a band, comprised of bassist Mick Grondahl and drummer Matt Johnson,<ref>Browne (2001), pp. 202-203</ref> and spent several weeks rehearsing.<ref>(August 23, 1994). "Grace album info". Sony Music Entertainment Inc. Retrieved on February 12, 2007.</ref> In September, the trio headed to Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York to spend 6 weeks recording basic tracks for what would become Grace.<ref>Browne (2001), pp. 204-208</ref> Buckley invited ex-bandmate Lucas to play guitar on the songs "Grace" and "Mojo Pin", and Woodstock-based jazz musician Karl Berger wrote and conducted string arrangements with Buckley assisting at times.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 206</ref> Buckley returned home for overdubbing at studios in Manhattan and New Jersey where he performed take after take to capture the perfect vocals and experimented with ideas for additional instruments and added textures to the songs.<ref>Browne (2001), pp. 224-225</ref>

In January 1994, Buckley left to go on his first solo North American tour to support Live at Sin-é.<ref name="bp224-225">Browne (2001), pp. 225-226</ref> It was followed by a quick 10 day European tour in March.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 230</ref> Buckley played clubs and coffeehouses and made in-store appearances.<ref name="bp224-225" /> After returning, Buckley invited guitarist Michael Tighe to join the band.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 227</ref> Buckley co-wrote "So Real" with Tighe, recorded as a late addition to the album.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 228</ref> In June, Buckley began his first full band tour called the "Peyote Radio Theatre Tour" that lasted into August.<ref name="Jeffbuckley.comBio">" biography". Retrieved on February 12, 2007.</ref> Pretender Chrissie Hynde,<ref>Browne (2001), p. 231</ref> Soundgarden's Chris Cornell, and The Edge from U2<ref>Browne (2001), p. 251</ref> were among the attendees of these early shows.

Grace was released on August 23, 1994. In addition to seven original songs, the album included three covers: "Lilac Wine", based on Nina Simone's version,<ref name="bp166"/> "Corpus Christi Carol", a Benjamin Britten composition based on a 15th century hymn that Buckley was introduced to in high school,<ref>Browne (2001), p. 75</ref> and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", based on John Cale's recording from the Cohen tribute album, I'm Your Fan.<ref name="bp166" /> Buckley's rendition of "Hallelujah" has been called "Buckley's best" and "one of the great songs"<ref>Tyrangiel, Josh (December 12, 2004). "Keeping Up the Ghost". Time. Retrieved on January 24, 2007.</ref> by Time magazine and is included on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".<ref>(December 9, 2004) "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref>

While sales were slow and the album garnered little radio airplay, it did quickly receive critical acclaim.<ref>Irvin, Jim. (August 1997). "It's Never Over: Jeff Buckley 1966-1997". Mojo. Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> The UK's Melody Maker called it, "a massive, gorgeous record,"<ref>Parkes, Taylor. (August 13, 1994). "Grace Review". Melody Maker. Retrieved on February 11, 2007.</ref> while The Sydney Morning Herald proclaimed it, "almost impossibly beautiful."<ref>Danielsen, Shane. (October 1994). "You read it here - album of the year". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved on February 13, 2007.</ref> The album did go gold in France and Australia over the next two years,<ref name="Jeffbuckley.comBio" /> eventually achieving gold status in the U.S. in 2002.<ref>(December 4, 2002). "Rock of Ages'. Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved on February 12, 2007.</ref> Grace has now sold over 2 million albums worldwide<ref>[1]</ref><ref>[2]</ref> and has gone platinum in Australia over six times

Grace won appreciation from a host of revered musicians. Included were members of Buckley's biggest influence, Led Zeppelin.<ref>Browne (2001), p. 10</ref> Jimmy Page considered Grace close to being his, "favorite album of the decade."<ref>Cross, Serena (Director). (2002). Jeff Buckley: Everybody Here Wants You [Television Documentary]. UK: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).</ref> Robert Plant was also complimentary.<ref name="NOWmagazine">Hughes, Kim. (May-June, 1998) "Mother preserving Jeff Buckley's legacy". NOW Magazine. Retrieved on February 13, 2007.</ref> Other of Buckley's influences<ref>Kane (1998, 1999), "Who were some of Jeff's influences?". Retrieved on February 13, 2007.</ref> lauded him: Bob Dylan named Buckley "one of the great songwriters of this decade,"<ref name=NOWmagazine/> David Bowie called Grace, "one of the 10 albums he'd bring with him to a desert island."<ref name="VillageVoice">Flanagan, Bill. (June 10, 1997). "Jeff Buckley Missing, Presumed Dead". Village Voice. Retrieved on February 13, 2007.</ref> Lou Reed expressed interest in working with him after seeing him perform.<ref name="VillageVoice"/> Paul McCartney,<ref>Browne (2001), p. 6</ref> Thom Yorke, Matthew Bellamy, Chris Cornell, Neil Peart, U2 and Elton John were among others who have held Buckley's work in high esteem.

Concert tours

Buckley spent much of the next year and a half touring to promote Grace. It seemed to be a tiring yet effective means for him to keep his independence from his record company, with which he had a strained relationship. From the album's release, he played in numerous countries, from Australia, to the UK (Glastonbury Festival and the Meltdown Festival at the invitation of Elvis Costello<ref>Browne (2001), p. 266</ref>). In 1995 Buckley played a concert at the Paris Olympia, a venue made famous by the French vocalist Édith Piaf, that he considered the finest performance of his career. Sony has since released a live recording of that performance.

Buckley went on his "phantom solo tour" of cafés in the Northeast in December 1996, appearing under a series of aliases: The Crackrobats, Possessed by Elves, Father Demo, Smackrobiotic, The Halfspeeds, Crit-Club, Topless America, Martha & the Nicotines, and A Puppet Show Named Julio.<ref>" Past tour dates". Retrieved on February 12, 2007.</ref> By way of justification, Buckley posted a note on the Internet stating that he missed the anonymity of playing in cafes and local bars:


Much of the material from the tours of 1995 and 1996 was recorded, and has been released posthumously on albums such as Mystery White Boy and Live a l'Olympia.

Buckley was an impassioned fan of Pakistani Sufi musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and during his cafe days Buckley had often covered his songs. He interviewed Khan for Interview magazine and wrote liner notes for Khan's The Supreme Collection compilation.


After completing touring in 1996, Buckley started to write for a new album to be called My Sweetheart the Drunk. In 1997 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he rented a shotgun house of which he was so fond he contacted the owner about the possibility of buying it.<ref>Browne, David. Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. HarperEntertainment. January, 2001. pg 1</ref> Buckley started recording demos on his own 4-track recorder. He went into the studio again, recruited a band, and plans for the new album looked hopeful.

On May 29, 1997, as the band's plane touched down on the runway to join him in his Memphis studio, Buckley went swimming in Wolf River Harbor, a tributary of the Mississippi River, while wearing steel-toed boots, all of his clothing, and singing along to a radio playing Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love. A roadie of Buckley's band, Keith Foti, remained ashore. After moving the radio and a guitar out of reach of the wake from a passing tugboat, Foti looked up to see that Buckley was gone. Despite a determined rescue effort that night, Buckley remained missing, and the search was called off the following day due to heavy rain. One week later his body was spotted by a tourist on a riverboat marina and was brought ashore.

The biography Dream Brother, written about him and his father, reveals that the night before his death Buckley reportedly admitted to several loved ones that he suffered from bipolar disorder. The autopsy confirmed that Buckley had taken no illegal drugs before his swim and a drug overdose was ruled out as the cause of death. He was 30 years old.

A recent statement from the Buckley estate insists: Template:Quote

After Buckley's death, a collection of demo recordings and a full length album he had been reworking for his second album were released as Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk - the compilation being overseen by Chris Cornell. Three other albums composed of live recordings have also been released, along with a live DVD of a performance in Chicago. A previously unreleased 1992 recording of "I Shall Be Released", sung by Buckley over the phone on live radio, was released on the album For New Orleans.

Director Brian Jun has announced plans to make a film biography of Buckley, in cooperation with his mother. It is to be called Mystery White Boy, and is scheduled for release in 2008. As of yet, no one has been cast in the role of Jeff. A separate project involving the book Dream Brother was allegedly canceled.<ref>Template:Cite news</ref>



Year Title Release Date
1993 Live at Sin-é November 23, 1993
1994 Grace August 23, 1994
1995 Live from the Bataclan [EP] October 1995
1998 Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk May 26, 1998
2000 Mystery White Boy May 9, 2000
2001 Live a L'Olympia July 3, 2001
2002 Songs to No One 1991-1992 October 15, 2002
2002 The Grace EPs November 26, 2002
2003 Live at Sin-é (Legacy Edition) September 2, 2003
2004 Grace (Legacy Edition) August 24, 2004
2007 So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley May 22, 2007


Year Title Release Date
2000 Live in Chicago May 9, 2000
2007 Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley May 22, 2007

Awards and nominations


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Tribute songs

Covers of Jeff Buckley songs

See also: "Hallelujah"

Unreleased Recordings

  • "All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun" with Elizabeth Fraser from the Cocteau Twins
  • "Dido's Lament"

Tribute Concerts

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Jeff Buckleys Death, His life and music will be celebrated globally between May and June 2007. There will be tributes in Canada-UK-Iceland-Ireland-Macedonia-Australia-Paris-France-USA (Louisiana, Boston & Hollywood)

Have a look at:

For more information.


Further reading

  • Brooks, Daphne. Jeff Buckley's Grace. Continuum International Publishing Group. 2005. ISBN 0-8264-1635-7
  • Buckley, Jeff. Jeff Buckley Collection. Hal Leonard. 2002. ISBN 0-6340-2265-2
  • Cyr, Merri and Buckley, Jeff. Wished for Song: A Portrait of Jeff Buckley Hal Leonard. 2002. ISBN 0-6340-3595-9

External links

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