The Set List
By Brian Washburn
Michael Jackson’s death has consumed the media in the last few weeks and most of us are sick of hearing about it. There are other legends that we lost all too soon, before they even reached the beginning of their full potential. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison are the most discussed. However, there is another musician who is loved in cult circles, Jeff Buckley. Buckley was the estranged son of musician Tim Buckley. Tim Buckley died of a drug overdose in 1975 at age 28.
Jeff Buckley had perhaps the greatest voice the national music scene has ever witnessed when he broke onto the scene in the early ’90s. With the critical success of his debut (and only) full-length album “Grace,” the singer-songwriter made his way into the hearts of many. A tragic swimming accident in the backwaters of the Mississippi River in Memphis claimed Buckley’s life in 1997 at age 30. The police investigation concluded that it was an accidental drowning, not suicide or drug or alcohol related.
Buckley’s most famous song would have to be his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which has found its way into movies and TV shows. Even though Buckley did not pen the tune, it is truly one of the greatest songs of all time and my favorite song of all time.
Buckley’s ability to maneuver his smooth vocals from a soft, low-pitch whisper and croon to a high-pitch belt of almost sorrow in the song can be replicated by only a handful of musicians, and those musicians still do not have the essence Buckley had when singing “Hallelujah” live.
While “Hallelujah” might be Buckley’s masterpiece, it is certainly not his only hit or the only song he is remembered for. “Grace” is littered with heartfelt and memorable tunes that range from soulful rhythm and blues to mid-’90s post grunge, to experimental rock songs. Most notably “Last Goodbye,” “Lover, You Should Have Come Over,” “Grace” and “Mojo Pin” have the dynamic and musical prowess to stand on their own, away from the classic album Buckley put out before his death.
Buckley’s vocal and talent legacy has remained intact in many different musical circles around the world, including directly influencing Radiohead, being covered on “American Idol” and being the topic of several movies and documentaries detailing the singer’s life. Even though his talent is worshiped by those who truly appreciate his vocal range and musicianship, one still wonders how much more Buckley could have given the world of music.
Jeff Buckley might not have had the fame or fan base of Hendrix or Cobain, but he certainly had the talent. He might not ever get the place in rock and roll and music history that he deserves, but for those who remember him, for those who have found him and for those music fanatics who respect him, Jeff Buckley’s legacy will live on as a talented music genius who was tragically lost before his prime.
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