In Memoriam: Jeff Buckley

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Jeff Buckley left an everlasting impression on the music industry with his 1994 debut – and subsequently only album – Grace. Unfortunately, Buckley’s life was cut short after a fateful swim in the Mississippi River on May 29, 1997. That one album cemented Buckley as a musical prodigy, culminating in him being considered as one of the greatest singers of all time.

Even though Buckley’s work remains popular to this day, not a lot of people know of his work other than his famous cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. A posthumous success that was recorded for his album Grace, but was released as a single in 2007. Which is extremely sad to think about. Buckley had such a rare gift not only in how much range and power that he was able to give through his voice, but also through his gentle and mesmerizing guitar work and his heartfelt songwriting.

Grace has a strange placement within the early 90s – in a world mostly dominated by the music of the Seattle Four (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains) – people were expecting something similar or a retaliation. What Buckley gives is outrightly an alternative rock record, but he manages to intertwine so many different genres through blues, jazz, classical and hard rock in places. Even though I’m a huge fan of 90s grunge, this record feels like a breath of fresh air in the midst of all that angst. Even though at times throughout Grace, Buckley also manages to accompany this angst, but in a far more melodic manner.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcaxrqhUJ4c&w=740&h=422]

If you’ve never listened to Buckley or only heard ‘Hallejuah’, take this as a chance to discover one of the most influential musicians of all time. The first step would be to listen to Grace in its entirety, looking out for the emotionally gripping tracks such as ‘So Real’ and ‘Eternal Life’. Then there’s the Legacy Edition, which is an extended version of the album including some unreleased tracks and demos.

If Grace manages to encompass you, then Live at the Sin-e is your next best bet. It’s one of the most captivating live performances out there. It’s up there with Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in terms of simplicity, combined with raw emotion. Which is what Buckley strived in as a musician, and something that no one else has been able to compete with to this day.

Words by Sophie McEvoy

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