Timothy Charles Buckley III (February 14, 1947 June 29, 1975) was an American folk, jazz and avant-garde singer-songwriter born in Washington, D.C.. Aside from his music, he is perhaps best known as the father of Jeff Buckley — who, like his father, was a very talented singer who died prematurely.
As a child in California, Buckley was steeped in classic jazz such as Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday as well as country like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. In high school, he was popular and athletic before he started to cut class and became a Rebellious Spirit, focused on music.
In 1965, he got married to Mary Guilbert, dropped out of Fullerton College after two weeks and pursued a music career in LA. He was signed to Elektra Records, the label that would later sign The Doors, and recorded a folk-rock album, ''Tim Buckley'', in August 1966. A few months later, he divorced his wife, who was pregnant at the time with their son, Jeff.
In 1967, at just 20 years old, he released an album that was judged to be very ambitious, Goodbye and Hello, which featured both introspective, personal folk songs and anti-war material. Subsequently, he signed with Frank Zappa's Straight Records, and later with another Zappa label, Disc Reet. Buckley's 1968 Happy Sad, which was his greatest commercial success, was similarly eclectic. Buckley evolved constantly over the course of his career, starting from the more heavily orchestrated folk-jazz sound of his first few albums and moving towards a more minimalist sound.
His subsequent three albums, Lorca, Blue Afternoon, and Starsailor, were a departure from folk rock and alienated his fans, especially the lattermost album, which featured free-jazz influences and his most extreme vocal performances yet. Then Buckley fired his band and cut three albums in a completely different genre which he called "sex-funk": Greetings from L.A., Sefronia, and Look at the Fool.
In 1975, Buckley got clean and began touring again, only to die of a drug overdose after a concert in Santa Monica at age 28.
Tim Buckley provides examples of the following tropes:
- The Cameo: He makes a guest appearance at the end of The Monkees' final episode, "The Frodis Caper/Mijacogeo", playing "Song of the Siren" to fill out the episode.
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Buckley was this in high school.
- Cover Version: The most accessible song off of Starsailor, "Song to the Siren", has been covered by This Mortal Coil (who were the first to cover it back in 1983), Robert Plant, John Frusciante, Charlotte Martin, and Bryan Ferry. It's quite a popular cover.
- Disappeared Dad: To Jeff Buckley, who was raised by his mother and stepfather. The song "I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain" is addressed to his estranged ex-wife and son. His son's cover is in on the meta level.
- Downer Ending: His life had one; he had only just cleaned himself up after years of drug usage and had just sold out several shows in Dallas. To celebrate the latter, he went out drinking with friends, and one such friend produced a bag of heroin, which Buckley ingested and overdosed on.
- Generation Xerox: His music and his voice are surprisingly similar to his son's considering that he didn't raise him and only met him once.
- Genre-Busting: His music became gradually more ambitious, and Starsailor was the Logical Extreme of his jazz-folk brand, with full use of his six-octave range, free jazz, and chanson elements added. In general, his musical style evolved a great deal over the course of his career.
- Man of a Thousand Voices: Just listen to Starsailor. The fact that he has a voice spanning almost six octaves certainly supported this ability.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: By his son, despite Jeff's even shorter recording career, although he made some genuinely awesome music himself.note He was a cult figure by the 80s, and if Jeff hadn't himself become very famous (and subsequently, after dying so young, more famous still), there would probably have been periodic revivals of interest in his work.
- Protest Song: A lot of his work from The '60s is this.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Exaggerated at times, "Peanut Man" practically has him use his voice as an instrument.
- Singer-Songwriter: Initially. He would branch out to other genres later in his career.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Tim Buckley's father was a mentally unstable World War II veteran.
- The Vietnam War: His early work includes many songs protesting this war.