Jeffrey Scott Buckle, also known as Jeff Buckley, was born in Scott Moorhead in Anaheim, California in 1966. He is recognized as a great singer-songwriter with guitar chops and a multi-octave singing range. From birth, Buckley was surrounded by music. His mother was a classically trained musician, Mary Guibert, and his father was an established folk singer by the name of Tim Buckley.
Buckley wasn’t close to his father, who later died young of a drug overdose. It was Buckley’s stepfather, Ron Moorhead, who taught him about music, late influencing his career. He was the one that gave Buckley the Led Zeppelin record that highly influenced his musicianship, Physical Graffiti.
Jeff Buckley’s Music Career
Singing in the house with his mother was pretty routine. From a young age, he was exploring what would become his impressive vocal range. At age 5, Jeffery started learning the guitar. Through high school, he played in cover bands. He studied at Los Angeles Musicians Institute before moving to New York City in 1990. At Sin-é cafe in tiny East Village, Buckley recorded a live four-song EP. Live at Sin-é was released in 1993. He booked his first small solo tour supporting the EP the following year.
‘Grace’ was Jeff Buckley’s first album. It released on August 24, 1994, as he and his band toured in Europe. Originals like ” Mojo Pin” and “Last Goodbye” were amongst his cover of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen on the 10 track album. The latter has been ranked by Rolling Stones as No. 259 on the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list in 2004. He and his band toured the album for nearly three years across the globe as it rose to acclaim. Accolades such as being No. 303 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” and Mojo Magazine added it to their “Modern Classics: 100 Greatest Albums Of Mojo’s Lifetime” in 2004.
Jeff Buckley’s Death
A sophomore album, ‘My Sweetheart the Drunk’ was in the works being recorded in New York City and Memphis, Tennessee in 1996. Some of his new material consisted of “Jewel Box” and “The Sky is a Landfill”. Jeff Buckley’s death the following year, however, changed those plans. One night while on the way to a recording space, the then 30-year-old and a friend decided to take a dip in the Mississippi River at Wolf River Harbor. The current of a passing boat pulled him underwater. The cause of death was an accidental drowning, his body was found upstream in Memphis on June 4.
Buckley’s mother assisted Columbia Records in putting together his work for posthumous releases. “Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk” released in 1998 featured unfinished songs. “Mystery White Boy” DVD came next and a video component of his “Live at Sin-é” EP was released.
Since then there have many tributes to late singer-songwriters and a slew of artists continue to pay the tributes to the musician. Among them are Chris Cornell, Coldplay, Lana Del Rey, and Massive Attack. Even today his style has influenced budding singer-songwriters and his cover of “Hallelujah” remains the preferred version of the song.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on October 1, 2019.