...we've got the means to make amends. I am lost, I'm no guide, but I'm by your side. (Pearl Jam, Leash)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Ten years gone: Jeff Buckley

"So I wait for you
And I burn
Will I ever see your
sweet return?

Oh, will I ever learn?"

Ten years ago tomorrow (May 29, 1997) Jeff Buckley decided to go for a swim in the Wolf River, laid on his back and began floating while he sang "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin. Quickly, stealthily, and tragically the currents sucked him in and pulled him under.

Ten years.

Ten years ago Wednesday I was sitting at the kitchen table in my parents' house in California reading the morning newspaper and probably having coffee, getting ready for one of my last few weeks of my senior year before graduating high school. Stuck at the very bottom of a sidebar with mundane news briefs of the day was this short blurb saying that folk-rock singer Jeff Buckley had been reported missing following a swim.

Such a small news bit; such a huge crashing sound in my ears. I remember exclaiming out loud, and calling my mom over; I had been deeply in love with his music for a year or so at that point, and felt this crazy urge to get on a plane and help the search efforts, or at the very least I wanted more information, something more to go on that just "he's missing." Today I could probably clickety-click to a live streaming news feed from the muddy banks, but then all I had to go on was a half-inch of sterile newsprint.

My answers came a few days later when his beautiful body showed up bloated and bruised in the waters at the foot of historic Beale Street in Memphis.

The story was over. The one finished album, the masterpiece, would have to be enough.

I wonder what ground he would have travelled, and what he would have created had he lived. By all accounts, Jeff's musical creativity was unbounded, and I've heard for myself the joy in his voice when he was doing what he was manically driven to do: create, perform, create.

In retrospect, Jeff is not the kind of artist I would have thought to fall in love with. At that time in my life, I was all about brooding, rocking, loud music. I guess Grace had enough of that to entice me in (through songs like "Eternal Life") and then, like the nectar at the bottom of a venus flytrap, I was ensnared, but happily.

In searching through my old news clippings for this post, I found an old press release with a listing of tour dates from 1994. He came through San Francisco on November 20. I wonder what else I was doing that night, my sophomore year of high school. Maybe I just place him higher on a pedestal than I should because I've built up in my mind what it would have been like to see him live, breathless, glowing. But maybe not.

Jeff is quoted in that press release as saying, "I'm really into flying. I don't care about being a gospel singer or a blues singer per se, but elements of that music are keys to my subconscious. When I sing something like that--if I do it right--it's like a weird snake that will get in you and unlock something. If I wasn't able to do this, I think I would really lay down and die.

"Music comes from a very primal, twisted place. When a person sings, their body, their mouth, their eyes, their words, their voice says all these unspeakable things that you really can't explain but that mean something anyway. People are completely transformed when they sing; people look like that when they sing or when they make love. But it's a weird thing--at the end of the night I feel strange, because I feel I've told everybody all my secrets."

Those 'secrets' of his still affect me more powerfully than almost any other artist with that soaring, gorgeous, fearless, devastating voice.

I miss you, Jeff.

Lover You Should Have Come Over (alternate version)
From the Eternal Life single

I Know It's Over (Smiths cover) - Jeff Buckley
from the so-called "Garbage Can Tape," circa 1993

I Shall Be Released - Jeff Buckley
collaborative Dylan cover, live over the phone with WFMU radio. Arresting, gorgeous - NOW ON CD: please see this post to buy it for a good cause!

Satisfied Mind - Jeff Buckley

TRIBUTES: There are a wide variety of tribute events taking place for Jeff. His website lists ones upcoming in Hollywood, London, Louisiana, Iceland, Georgia, Macedonia, Boston, Dublin, Melbourne, and Paris. The Uncommon Grounds Chicago event is scheduled for November. I went to one in San Francisco at Noe Valley Ministry several years back, and it was surprisingly transcendent.

Related posts (all links reupped where needed):
The story behind Jeff covering Dylan
Tribute songs penned about Jeff
Jeff Buckley and Aimee Mann
Rarities from NYC
Jeff channels his father
Video: Jeff singing Satisfied Mind
Some live covers from Jeff



At May 28, 2007 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. What I've enjoyed most about your blog is your love of Jeff Buckley's music. The moment I heard Hallelujah, I knew I had to hear more from him. It's been ten years, but his music lives on. Thank you for sharing the beauty that is voice in your posts, I really appreciate it!

At May 28, 2007 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, you introduced me to Jeff Buckley and after hearing him I understood why so many grieved his loss. His voice has so many facets to it, but the one thing that always gets me is how haunting it is. Hearing the performance you posted that he gave at his father's tribute was amazing. I can only imagine what he was going through singing songs his father wrote about abandoning him and his mother, and yet somehow through his voice i can understand. Great posts, and thanks a lot.

At May 28, 2007 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

inqmgwLike Hendrix, he was ahead of everybody else;talented beyond the scope of dreams.His 'Hallelujah' so broken and lovelorn,angry and accepting;a performance that begins and ends with a sigh so articulate it causes you to catch your breath.

A lot of things in life make no sense - are broken hallelujahs.

At May 28, 2007 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe it's been 10 years. I discovered Jeff Buckley when I was in high school (about 6 years ago) and Grace changed my life. He continues to be an inspiration in my life and he has this tremendous effect on people who have been lucky to have found Jeff's music. He really was an angel. Miss and love you forever Jeffrey Scott Buckley.

At May 28, 2007 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When God calls you home, you go.

No if's, and's or butt's.

At May 28, 2007 5:52 PM, Blogger c said...

that is a really beautiful post, heather. God bless jeff buckley.

At May 28, 2007 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great tribute Heather.

it's already the 29th here and I'm paying the best tribute I can.. just listening to his music, eyes shut, no sound but his.

he'll always be my biggest source of inspiration.
man I might become sloppy now so.. :P

thanx for all the Jeff references! that's the reason why I started checking your blog anyway.

PS - I've got his concert in the San Francisco Great American Music Hall on the 1995-05-04! where were you then? ;)

At May 28, 2007 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could you please post the mp3 of Jeff singing All Tomorrow's Parties so I could download it? That would be amazing. I'm so glad I found someone else who likes Jeff Buckley because for some reason no one else I know does. Anyway, thanks

At May 28, 2007 9:21 PM, Blogger Julie said...

Hi, Heather. I love Jeff Buckley but had no idea tomorrow marked ten years...how is that possible???

I met Jeff once in Atlanta in a small club where he was playing. It was about 1993, I guess. I wrote a small tribute to him on my blog a few weeks ago...go read it if you'd like.

He was an amazing man, and seeing him perform live is something I now realize was a gift to me from the heavens.

At May 28, 2007 9:46 PM, Blogger Jeremy Thomas said...

Great post... I had never heard that Dylan cover before... Buckley had so much talent that was lost at such a young age.

At May 29, 2007 12:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heather, thanks!
How can I download "I know it's over"? It's not working.

At May 29, 2007 8:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just started reading "Dream Brothers: The Life and Times of Jeff & Tim Buckley" by David Browne. Your post of "I Shall Be Released" reawakened that fascination and appreciation of Jeff Buckley. Although I just started reading it, it gives great insight into Jeff's genius and struggles.

At May 29, 2007 10:05 AM, Blogger Brendan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At May 29, 2007 10:07 AM, Blogger Brendan said...

Thank you for so much stuff on and about Jeff. I love him, but am too young to have been part of the buzz when he was still alive. That version of 'I Shall Be Released' is fantastic; did I read a while back that there was going to be a cleaned up version of it?

At May 29, 2007 10:14 AM, Blogger heather said...

Thanks Brendan, I added the link up there in the original post to that CD compilation featuring the fantastic Dylan cover - definitely one to buy.

At May 29, 2007 10:27 AM, Blogger myselfixion said...

What is this "Garbage Can Tape" and how can I get a copy?

At May 29, 2007 10:42 AM, Blogger heather said...

myselfixion, I have only been able to locate that one track, although there are several dead torrents out there. It's allegedly a tape that was found in the trash in NYC, and I myself would like to hear the whole thing as well.

At May 29, 2007 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff, I know you read this blog. We really miss you. Thanks for all that you were and continue to be in the hearts of your fans. Your music and spirit live on (in this blog and in song). Peace to you Jeff.

At May 29, 2007 4:34 PM, Blogger Jeff K said...

Heather, thanks for the fantastic tribute. I can't believe he's been gone 10 years. I was lucky enough to see him in concert twice in 1995--there will never be another like him, period. RIP, JB.

At May 29, 2007 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the supposed setlist of the garbage can tape is
Parchman Farm ; If you see her, say hello ; I know it's over ; Hallelujah ; Let time stand still ; Madame george ; Killing time!

at least that's all I've got!
Madame George is amazing! 10 beautiful minutes!

At May 29, 2007 8:29 PM, Blogger Bruce said...

Thanks for writing this. It's moving. I had the special priviledge of meeting Jeff a few times and not only was he a genuinely nice, friendly person, he had a beautiful spirit. I remember the first time I saw him play live in Philly - it was right before his first album came out. He played for a bunch of industry folks and our jaws dropped within seconds of his first song. And I remember crying after that very first song. Little has moved me since. Great post.

At May 29, 2007 11:15 PM, Blogger Callie Koch said...

I always kick myself for not checking out Jeff's music sooner when I first started hearing his name some years ago. But then I stop and count myself among the lucky for having been able to know his music at all. There are too many people who still have not had the privilege of hearing that voice and that music.

Thanks for the post, Heather.

At May 30, 2007 4:53 AM, Blogger Lee said...

I'm so entranced by Buckley's legend that I am referring to him in the novel I'm now writing. Thanks for this post, and the downloads.

At May 30, 2007 2:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Jeff Buckley's music is so incredibly moving. I always wonder what he would have gone on to create if he had not died tragically young.
I've been enjoying all the covers and rarities you've posted. I remember reading somewhere that Jeff recorded a version of Creep for radio, but it was never played because it was deemed too depressing - do you know anything about this?

At May 30, 2007 2:49 PM, Blogger heather said...

Bailey, no, I'd never heard that before...seems a bit out of character to me, but...???

At May 30, 2007 9:56 PM, Blogger myron said...

The list of people I never got to see perform live is tragically long, and Buckley heads it. Thank you for some links to stuff I never heard before and filling in some gaps.

At May 31, 2007 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone else heard that Jeff and Eddie once sang Indifference together? I'm pretty sure it was never recorded, which is a shame, but I read that Eddie said he was blown away by what Jeff did with the song. What a duet that would have been!

At May 31, 2007 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah.. there's quote from Eddie in which he says that but I think it was only Jeff singing and playing his guitar to Eddie.. that quote is on Merri Cyr's book Wished-for Song: A Portrait of Jeff Buckley

At June 01, 2007 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was 14 in 1994, Grace was the first CD I'd bought on my own. I'm 27 now, and every day still haunted by this artist. I don't think a rawer, more pure, emotive voice and personality ever existed before him or after. That's my take on maybe my favorite artist of all time. That one album heavily influenced the music I started getting into and am still finding today. Thanks Jeff. We miss you.

At June 04, 2007 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cried..

At July 14, 2007 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in band at Loara High School with Jeff. I remember him well. Jeff was the class clown in stage band but he got away with quite a bit because he was truley a child prodigy. I remember thinking it was like he was born with a guitar in his hands. I feel honored even now to think that I performed with Jeff, even if it was 24 years ago. Jeff, you will always be missed.

At April 21, 2008 11:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,
SOMFATMTYLM from Sydney here. See http://thepiratebay.org/tor/4045884/ for Jeff & Tim Buckley JJJ Special. Please see my comment re bittorrents derived from your ZIP file of Eddie's recent performance. Hmmm, 6 degrees of separation! I am a great Jeff Buckley and I was also a big Tim Buckley enthusiast when he was performing. The first albums that really highlighted Tim's work were Greetings from L.A. and Sefronia. In those days Australia suffered from limited releases and Greetings was voted the "best bonking" album for many years here in Oz.
I have 2 reviews that I typed in 1996, the last was the day after Jeff's final official band performance at Selinas when Matt quit the band. Would you like me to post them?

At July 30, 2008 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for such a beautiful post and such a great blog.

In late summer/early fall 1994 a friend and I walked into a music store on Haight Street and heard Hallelujah playing. "Who IS that?" My friend immediately bought the CD and we raced back to his apartment to listen... and that was that. We were just blown away by that voice, by those songs, by those arrangements. Such an incredible, soulful talent.

I'm happy to say my then-girlfriend now-wife and I saw the Noe Valley Ministry show in November '94. It was magical -- we already adored him -- but I wish I'd known to pay more attention.

Now, nearly 14 years' later, living on the other side of the country, our nine-year-old boy plays Hallelujah on the piano and listens to Grace all the time. And I am newly obsessed.

At March 30, 2009 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was introduced to Jeff Buckley's music in 1998 and was SO hearbroken when I was told of his untimely passing. I watched a two part episode of Without a Trace called "Fallout" that was very emotional. When the episode ended Hallelujah began playing by Buckley. I had been proud of myself for not losing my cool while watching this show (it involved 9/11 and the WTC. PLUS my stepfather passed away only 3 weeks prior to my seeing it) but as soon as I heard his beautiful voice I completely broke. I really miss him. Jeff: you will always be thought of with fondness and with love. WE MISS YOU


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