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Tribute: Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley produced only one studio album during his lifetime. But the beauty and power of his music continues to resonate and inspire. Grace, released in 1994, is an ethereal masterpiece, vacillating from the fragile, haunting melodies of "Lilac Wine," "So Real" and "Hallelujah," to the desperately passionate pleas of "Mojo Pin," "Grace" and "Last Goodbye".

Jeff Buckley was born 17 November 1966 and grew up as "Scott Moorhead" - a combination of his middle name and his stepfather's last name. Buckley claimed to have met his biological father only once, when he was eight years old. Singer and musician, Tim Buckley, had been married to Mary Guibert for roughly a year; they divorced about a month before their only child, Jeffrey Scott Buckley, was born. When Tim died of a drug overdose in 1975, Jeff decided to go by the name on his birth certificate. His family, however, would continue to call him "Scottie".

Buckley began work on a second album in 1996. In May of 1997, he was in Memphis with his band recording some material. On the evening of the 29th, Buckley went swimming, fully clothed with his boots on, in Wolf River Harbor (linked to the Mississippi River). Keith Foti, who accompanied Buckley, remained on shore. After moving a radio and guitar out of reach of the wake from a passing boat, Foti realised that Buckley had vanished. His body was recovered on 4 June. The autopsy revealed drowning as the sole cause of death. Jeff Buckley was 30.

Jeff Buckley

One final "studio" album was released posthumously, in 1998. Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk is a compilation of finished studio tracks and four-track demos. Buckley had tentatively titled his second album, My Sweetheart, the Drunk. The album (perhaps because of its unfinished state) is grittier and far more pedestrian than Grace. But Buckley's lazy sensuality and bare emotion shine through on the track, "Everybody Here Wants You."

It is not known where Buckley was buried, if he was creamated, etc. But a memorial to the artist does exist: there are two plaques, below, placed in the Memphis (Tennessee) Zoo overlooking the tiger enclosure. (Buckley signed as a volunteer at the zoo in 1996.) Mojo Pin.org, a Jeff Buckley tribute site, has some excellent photos, including the last picture taken of Jeff, a shot of the area where he took that last swim, and a view of his memorial at the Memphis Zoo.

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Memorial plaque space saver Memorial plaque

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Despite Buckley's limited musical output, he has garnered much critical and popular acclaim. A list of his recognitions follows.

1995
The Academie Charles Cros "Grand Prix International Du Disque" - Grace.
MTV Video Music Award nomination, Best New Artist in a Video - "Last Goodbye".
Rolling Stone nomination, Best New Artist.
"Last Goodbye" ranked #14 on the Triple J Hottest 100. (An annual Australian music poll based on the votes of radio station Triple J listeners, the survey attracts over half a million votes each year, claiming to be the world's largest music poll.)
1998
Grammy Award nomination, Best Male Rock Vocal Performance - "Everybody Here Wants You".
2003
#303 of the 500 Greatest Albums by Rolling Stone - Grace.
2004
Buckley's cover of "Hallelujah" ranked #259 of the 500 Greatest Songs by Rolling Stone. (Buckley's version has sold more copies than Leonard Cohen's original.)
2006
Placed #1 on Mojomagazine's "Top 100 Albums of Mojo's Lifetime" - Grace.
Grace ranked #2 on "My Favourite Album", a television special aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
2007
In a poll of fifty songwriters conducted by Q magazine, "Hallelujah" rated among the all-time "Top 10 Greatest Tracks".
2008
Placed #39 in Rolling Stone's The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
On 7 March, Buckley's "Hallelujah" went to No. 1 on the iTunes chart. The song also debuted at #1 that same week on Billboard's Hot Digital Songs chart, Buckley's first #1 on any Billboard chart.
2009
The Triple J Hottest 100 of All Time, included Buckley's "Hallelujah" (#3), "Last Goodbye" (#7), "Lover, You Should've Come Over" (#56) and "Grace" (#69).

Cover of <em>Grace</em>

Track listing for Grace:

"Mojo Pin"

"Grace"

"Last Goodbye"

"Lilac Wine"

"So Real"

"Hallelujah"

"Lover, You Should've Come Over"

"Corpus Christi Carol"

"Eternal Life"

"Dream Brother"

Jeff Buckley