Remembering Jeff Buckley on His 45th Birthday

The gift­ed gui­tarist, singer and song­writer Jeff Buck­ley would have turned 45 years old today. As a young boy grow­ing up in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Buck­ley’s first musi­cal obses­sion was Led Zep­pelin’s Phys­i­cal Graf­fi­ti. His moth­er remem­bers him play­ing the record so often the grooves wore out. The tables were turned in 1994 when Buck­ley released his debut album, Grace, and Led Zep­pelin gui­tarist Jim­my Page found him­self lis­ten­ing to it con­stant­ly. Page thought Buck­ley was the great­est tal­ent to emerge in decades. It was an aus­pi­cious begin­ning.

Sad­ly, the young man died before he could fin­ish a sec­ond album. In 1997, at the age of 30, Buck­ley was wait­ing for some band­mates to arrive for a record­ing ses­sion in Mem­phis when he decid­ed to go for an impromp­tu swim in a slack­wa­ter chan­nel of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er. Sober and in good spir­its, he went into the water ful­ly clothed, with his boots still on, singing along to a boom­box play­ing Led Zep­pelin’s “Whole Lot­ta Love.” A tug boat passed, and a road­ie friend who was on the shore scram­bled to move the boom­box and a gui­tar away from the boat’s wake. When he turned back around, Buck­ley had dis­ap­peared.

Buck­ley nev­er had a hit record in his life­time, but his fol­low­ing has steadi­ly grown since his death. His bril­liant remake of Leonard Cohen’s “Hal­lelu­jah” (in the video above) went to the top of the iTunes down­load chart in 2008.

To learn more about this remark­able artist you can watch the 2002 BBC doc­u­men­tary, Jeff Buck­ley: Every­body Here Wants You. (See below.) The one-hour film fea­tures rare footage of Buck­ley’s ear­ly per­for­mances and inter­views, along with com­men­tary by Jim­my Page, Pat­ti Smith, Chrissie Hyn­de and many of the peo­ple who were close to Buck­ley, includ­ing his moth­er. It chron­i­cles his ear­ly work as a gui­tarist in Los Ange­les, his emer­gence as a singer and song­writer in New York, the mak­ing of Grace, and the ghost that was always shad­ow­ing Buck­ley: the com­pli­cat­ed lega­cy of his famous bio­log­i­cal father, the folk singer Tim Buck­ley, who he bare­ly knew, and who also died young.


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Comments (4)
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  • JC says:

    Great post…thanks!

  • Annie says:

    In my opin­ion, since first “dis­cov­er­ing” Jeff Buck­ley in 1994, no oth­er artist has ever come close to his musi­cal genius and beau­ty of being. His music touch­es my soul and brings me peace. So sad to not be able to expe­ri­ence many more years of his bril­liance, but so grate­ful for what he did leave behind.

  • eric calderone says:

    Jeff Buck­ley wield­ed awe­some tech­ni­cal tal­ent in his com­po­si­tions and as a gui­tarist, which when com­bined with his sin­gu­lar vocal skills, right­ful­ly earn him a top place in the pan­theon of artist greats. He was a pure rock spir­it whose phys­i­cal absence leaves his fans with a poignant pain that 15 years have not dimin­ished one iota.

  • Maria Gamito says:

    Some days ago I start­ed inves­ti­gat­ing who could be ‘Hallelujah”s voice, and found out this inspi­ra­tional per­son. His music and voice go on alive show­ing the path to gen­uine­ness. A blessed one, Jeff Buck­ley.

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