"Maybe there's a God above
But all I ever learned from love
Is how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya."
Despite passing away at only 30, Jeff Buckley is fondly remembered as an inspired guitarist and singer/songwriter of the 1990s. He first worked in Los Angeles
, singing mostly cover songs until he garnered the interest of Columbia Records
and created his first and only studio album, Grace,
in 1994. Working on that album was Record Producer
Andy Wallace, who previously made a name for himself mixing Nirvana
Buckley spent much of the next two years promoting Grace
. Sales of the album were mostly lackluster, and the songs received little play on the radio. Despite that, he was a critical darling and received almost entirely positive reviews. His cover of "Hallelujah" was noted as one of his best efforts, and included in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Jimmy Page
even called Grace
his "favorite album of all time", high praise from the man Buckley counted as one of his chief influences.
In late 1996, Buckley moved to Memphis to begin work on his second album, but tragedy struck. On May 29, 1997, he disappeared while going for an evening swim in Wolf River Harbor, a channel of the Mississippi river; having waded out into the river, fully dressed, while shouting the lyrics to "Whole Lotta Love
", he was swept away while a friend was moving their belongings away from the incoming tide. His body wasn't found until June 4. After an autopsy, it was confirmed that Buckley had taken no illegal drugs or alcohol, and his death was entirely accidental.
After his death, it was decided by Buckley's mother to release an incomplete version of Jeff's second album, "My Sweetheart the Drunk". Due to the album's unfinished nature, it was retitled "Sketches For My Sweetheart the Drunk". The album itself is even less known than its predecessor, but among serious fans it has the status of being just as good, if not better
, than "Grace". That being said, the album is obviously unfinished, with many songs suffering from poor audio quality and general oddities in terms of songwriting.
In the years since, Buckley's popularity has grown. "Hallelujah" eventually became the number 1 single on iTunes for a time, and several of his demos were released posthumously.
There's also a movie based off of his life in the works right now, with Reeve Carney
playing Jeff. It has a tentative title of "Mystery White Boy", a nickname Jeff often went under whilst touring.
His album Grace
(1994) now has its own page.
His work provides examples of
- Adorkable: Just look at most of the interviews conducted with him!
- Author Existence Failure - His death led to his sophomore album to never be finished.
- Bishōnen - Don't try to deny it.
- According to some accounts, Buckley resented his attractiveness, believing it to be something that prevented people from taking him seriously.
- Berserk Button: Mentioning his biological father or the man's musical legacy was something that irked Buckley a great deal. Although he repeatedly stated that he appreciated Tim Buckley as a musician and clearly studied the man's work heavily, he didn't view him as his father and Jeff tended to downplay his influence on his own music. However, by some accounts, he was finally beginning to come to terms with his father before his death.
- Break Up Song - "Last Goodbye" and "Lover You Should've Come Over"
- Calling the Old Man Out - "Dream Brother", in a roundabout way. The song itself is warning to a friend who was self-destructing, but Buckley makes reference to his own father (who walked out on Jeff and his mother when she was still pregnant and died of a drug overdose before Jeff turned 10).
- This is not to imply that his father was a failure of a person, though. His father was Tim Buckley (no, not that one), who released several critically acclaimed albums in the late sixties and early seventies, and the start of Jeff Buckley's more popular (relatively speaking) career was at a tribute concert for his father.
- Tim Buckley was a Disappeared Dad to Jeff. He met him only once and the lyric "don't be like the one who made me so old" is a subtle but clear Take That.
- Additionally, at at least one live performance of this song, he adds an additional few lines in just before one of the verses, one of which is "you're just like him" several times.
- "What Will You Say" has been taken to be about Tim Buckley as well...which would make it about meeting him in the afterlife.
- Actually, "What Will You Say" was apparently mainly written by Jeff's friend Chris Dowd, and Jeff only helped with some parts of the song. Nevertheless, one can imagine that Jeff felt the song hit pretty close to home, regardless of who wrote the words.
- Celebrity Resemblance: Jeff has a pretty striking likeness to James Franco.
- Some say he's an Expy of James Dean.
- The Cover Changes The Gender - Averted.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: One of the defining traits of Buckley's live shows was his tendency to interact with the audience by spoofing his favorite artists. A lot of the interviews conducted with him also feature him going off on tangents.
- Cover Version - He had quite a few... "Lilac Wine", "Corpus Christi Carol", "Yard of Blonde Girls", "Back in N.Y.C." and "Satisfied Mind", for starters.
- Dead Artists Are Better - Sadly, Buckley didn't achieve widespread success until after his drowning.
- Disappeared Dad: Sadly Jeff never got to know his father Tim who died in when he eight from drugs.
- Epic Rocking - There exists a 26 minute version of "Kanga Roo" that pretty much plays this to the letter.
- Also, Buckley's cover of "Back in N.Y.C.", originally written by Genesis.
- Jeff had a couple of songs with special live remixes called "Chocolate" versions. The most famous of these are "Mojo Pin" and "Kanga Roo". The former can easily be found on YouTube. The latter not so much.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French - Jeff's cover of "Je N'en Connais Pas La Fin", originally written by Édith Piaf.
- Famous Last Words: When Buckley was last seen alive, he was shouting the lyrics to "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin.
- Generation Xerox: Tragically both Jeff and Tim died at young ages.
- Grief Song - "Hallelujah" again
- Also many of his songs of of "Sketches", with "I Know We Could Be So Happy Baby (If We Wanted To Be)" particularly standing out.
- Not to mention "Forget Her", which Buckley wrote after breaking up with his girlfriend. As a result, the song brought up such painful memories that he refused to include it on his first album (It was eventually released on the Legacy Edition of "Grace", however).
- Incredibly Long Note: One note in "Hallelujah" lasts 23 seconds.
- Intercourse with You - Not often, but "Your Flesh is So Nice" absolutely reeks of this. It's about two lesbians having sex (with Jeff being one of them somehow).
- Keep Circulating the Tapes - A lot of his E Ps and live albums have either gone out of print or are really hard to find.
- Fans like to collect bootlegs of his recorded concerts on DVD and CD. His mother doesn't do much to stop this as she thinks this helps to spread his name out there.
- Amazing Grace, the award-winning documentary about his life went into a state of limbo for a few years before finally being released on the special edition of Grace Around The World. This edition, however, is about to go out of print, leaving the documentary under the possibility of becoming this trope once again.
- Long Title - "Lover You Should've Come Over", "I Know We Could Be So Happy Baby (If We Wanted to Be)"
- Officially unreleased classic "All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun"
- Lyrical Dissonance - "Last Goodbye"
- Messy Hair
- Missing Episode - According to Amazing Grace, Buckley threw out almost an album's worth of recordings for his second album. This means that the two discs on Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk aren't even all of the recordings from those sessions.
- One-Hit Wonder - Technically: "Last Goodbye" was his only chart appearance in his lifetime, peaking at #19 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks (now Alternative Songs) chart. However, based on the song's fame, "Hallelujah."
- One Woman Song: "Grace".
- The Perfectionist- The reason that he recorded so little material in his lifetime was because of how lofty his standards for his own work were. This came to a head during the recordings session of his planned second album. Although he had completed a record's worth of material, he threw it at all out and started from scratch.
- Real Song Theme Tune - "New Year's Prayer" was used as the theme to the first three seasons of The Dead Zone.
- Reconstruction: While his music was undeniably indebted to the indie rock of his age, he completely averted the Perishing Alt Rock Voice and re-introduced the sweeping falsetto tenor from classic rock into alternative music.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll - Averted. Despite what the media assumed after Buckley was first found dead, neither drugs nor alcohol contributed to his death.
- This doesn't mean he never did drugs though. In a few interviews he was quoted that he was a light drug user.
- This was played tragically straight for his Father Tim (Also a famous musician) who died of a Heroin Overdose when Jeff was eight.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song - Picture this: You're listening to "Sketches For My Sweetheart the Drunk", which is full of Nightmare Fuel. Finally, you get to the penultimate song on the album, "Jewel Box", which is one of the prettiest love songs Jeff ever wrote. It's jarring, to say the least.
- Title Only Chorus - "Hallelujah"
- Three Chords and the Truth: Averted, his songs made frequent use of jazz chords and adventurous modulation.