It was during summer classes of my sophomore year at college. During my daily ritual of drinking a diet coke and watching MTV News for breakfast, I heard the news. Kurt Loder was talking about some guy named Jeff Buckley that had gone missing. Erroneously, I first thought he meant Jeff Beck. Who was Jeff Buckley, I kept asking myself while trying to study for an exam on Canterbury Tales ... who the hell is Jeff Buckley.
Fast forward three years later and I am in the gym at Macquarie University in Sydney when I hear it. It was a voice I had never heard and he was singing Leonard Cohen. I had not made the connection in my memory yet when they mentioned his name: Jeff Buckley.
I rushed to the mall and right into the record store (God I miss those). I went right to the B's and found a few of his albums and went to the counter. As the lovely lady was scanning my purchases she mentioned how sad it was that he died so young. Heartbroken, I took my purchase back to our flat as I began to listen to Grace for the very first time, clearly marking a moment in my life as before and after I had listened to Grace. Then I finally remembered where I had heard his name before.
May 29th marks the 20th anniversary of when Jeff sang Whole Lotta Love while wading into the Wolf River for a swim. Three days previous, he had played his final show at Barristers in his new home city of Memphis. At 30 years of age, he left behind a gaping whole of need. With his first release Grace throttling him into celebrity and into a world where his heroes were praising him, there was now an emptiness of what could have been.
If you listen to Sketches, you quickly realize he was going to be like U2, changing his sound as he went along. Would it have been the one last nail in that red glitter coffin? I doubt it, but companies wanted Grace Part 2 and Jeff was not going to deliver that.
Jeff Buckley was a complete package deal: looks, talent, and the equally talented musician father. His death rounded out and solidified what is now his mythic status. As of the music gods gave him back, he was found floating at the end of Beale Street on June 4th.
The community of those who adore Jeff seems to grow slowly, but not at an Elvis level. In truth, it really is his life and not his tragic death that is celebrated. But to truly honor Jeff, we need to celebrate and remember his music. But not just Hallelujah. Listen to Mojo Pin, What Would You Say, or his glorious cover of The Way Young Lovers Do and appreciate Jeff for what he was: an artist.