Jeff Buckley

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Jeff Buckley (born Jeffrey Scott Buckley, November 17, 1966May 29, 1997), was an American lyricist, singer and guitarist whose unique vocal range launched him to semi-celebrity; at the height of his fame, he drowned during an evening swim in Memphis, Tennessee. His work and style continue to be highly regarded by critics and fellow musicians.

Buckley was a tenor capable of reaching a falsetto pitch and while a tenor's range spans middle C to high F, Jeff's range was four octaves. Jeff was also a light lyric tenor, with a typical lyric tenor tessitura, the same range as Pavarotti. In sum, his voice and breath control were widely considered magnificent.



Buckley was the only son of Mary Guibert and Tim Buckley, a songwriter who released a series of highly acclaimed folk and jazz albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s before his own untimely death in 1975 (1975 in music). Buckley was raised by his mother and step-father Ron Moorhead in southern California, in and around Orange County, and has a half-brother, Corey Moorhead. During his childhood he was known as Scott "Scotty" Moorhead, but around age 10 chose to go by his birth name; to family he remains known as Scotty.

Buckley's public debut was at the tribute performance for his father, Tim Buckley at St. Ann's Church, in 1991. He was not billed as a performer, choosing to simply pay his respects to his father, saying "This is not a springboard, this is something very personal." He performed "I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain" with Gary Lucas accompanying him on guitar and did an a cappella performance of "Once I Was" that brought the venue to complete silence. 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."


Buckley played with experimental guitarist Gary Lucas in his band Gods and Monsters. In 1994, Buckley released his debut album Grace, composed of ten tracks. While sales were slow, the album quickly received critical acclaim and appreciation from other musicians (among them Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney). His cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is considered by many to be the best recording of that song, and the apex of Buckley's talent.

Buckley's innocent vision of the record industry led him to an unbearable situation. After the release of his first and critically acclaimed album, he spent more than two years touring across the world. It seemed to be a tiring but effective means for him to keep his independence from his record company. In 1995 he played a concert which he considered the finest performance of his career at the Paris Olympia, a venue made famous by the french chanteuse Edith Piaf.

Buckley also went on a so-called "phantom solo tour" starting in December of 1996, using several aliases including: Father Demo, Topless America, Smackcrobiotic, The Halfspeeds, Crackrobats, and Martha and the Nicotines. As a justification to this mysterious tour, Buckley posted a note on the internet stating that he missed the anonymity of playing in cafes and local bars:

There was a time in my life not too long ago when I could show up in a cafe and simply do what I do, make music, learn from performing my music, explore what it means to me, i.e. have fun while I irritate and/or entertain an audience who don't know me or what I am about. In this situation I have that precious and irreplaceable luxury of failure, of risk, of surrender. I worked very hard to get this kind of thing together, this work forum. I loved it and then I missed it when it disappeared. All I am doing is reclaiming it.


Soon after recordings began for his second album which was to be called My Sweetheart the Drunk, Buckley drowned in the Wolf River in Memphis, Tennessee on May 29, 1997 at the age of 30. He was swept away by the undertow of a passing boat, while swimming. His body was recovered 5 days later.

After Buckley's death, some of the demo recordings for his second album were released as Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk. Three other albums composed of live recordings have also been released, along with a live DVD of a performance in Chicago.

Buckley's work, seemingly an anomaly at its time, has been enormously influential. Numerous tribute songs have been written, among them P.J. Harvey's "Memphis", and Chris Cornell's "Wave Goodbye". Vocalists such as Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Chris Martin of Coldplay unabashedly cue themselves to his voice.


Tribute songs

External links

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