Nearly 20 years after the Mississippi River claimed his life, the mystique surrounding Jeff Buckley has evolved into rock ’n’ roll legend. You and I, an intimate collection of demos from 1993, is the latest in a string of posthumous releases attempting to shed more light on Buckley.
In addition to his once-in-a-generation musical gifts, Buckley was a soulful, if mercurial individual whose philosophical approach to life shone through in the handful of interviews he gave in the wake of the success of his lone full-length, 1994’s Grace. With the release of You and I here are some things you may not have known about the magnetic figure behind this powerful and timeless music.
The lost demos comprising You and I (recorded in 1993 at producer Steve Addabbo’s Shelter Island Sound) were accidentally discovered as Sony Music was putting together the 20th anniversary edition of Grace.
Though the singer/songwriter’s birth name is Jeffrey Scott Buckley, he went by the name Scotty Moorhead until he was 10. Moorhead is the last name of his stepfather, Ron, who played a pivotal role in exposing him to classic rock.
Because Leonard Cohen has altered the lyrics to his beloved classic “Hallelujah” several times throughout his career, most of the cover versions out there differ slightly from one another. The now iconic rendition found on Grace is, in terms of lyrical construction, actually closer to the “Hallelujah” that John Cale recorded in 1991 than it is Cohen’s original from 1984’s Various Positions album.
In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked Buckley No. 39 on the publication’s list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.” He’s in impressive company, sitting between soul great Curtis Mayfield (40) and pop giant Elton John (38).
Throughout his short career, music critics routinely drew comparisons between Buckley’s sound and that of his estranged father, folk-rock icon Tim Buckley. This exasperated him. “I knew him for nine days,” he divulged to NME music journalist Ted Kessler in 1994. “I met him for the first time when I was eight years old over Easter, and he died two months later. He left my mother when I was six months old. So, I never really knew him at all.”
One of Buckley’s favorite singers was David Shouse of Memphis indie-rock legends The Grifters. After the pair became friends, the singer/songwriter decided to record his sophomore effort, the ultimately unfinished My Sweetheart the Drunk, at Easley McCain Recording, where Shouse and his band liked to work.
Buckley’s mother, Mary Guibert, may oversee her son’s estate with all the passion and devotion of a real fan, but when he was a child the last thing she desired was for him to become a musician. “I never wanted him to want to be a performer, absolutely not,” she revealed in a 2009 interview for State. “What a life, his father’s is no small example of that.”
The artist was just as poetic in interviews as in song. When asked by Italian music journalist Luisa Cotardo why he didn’t include a lyric sheet with Grace he offered this thoughtful reply: “Instead of [listeners] looking at the dance steps ahead of time, they would just go through the dance. Later on, they will find out what the meaning is, but for now… It’s better to grab your own reality from it.”
Buckley comes to the big screen. In addition to 2012’s Greetings From Tim Buckley, in which Jeff is portrayed by Gossip Girls’ Penn Badgley, a more robust biopic, White Mystery Boy, has been in the development since 2009. Shrouded in rumors and unconfirmed reports, the latter project has seen a long list of Hollywood heavyweights attached to it, including a potential producer in Brad Pitt, Patricia Arquette apparently cast as Buckley’s mother, and James Franco, whose uncanny resemblance to Buckley certainly makes him a natural fit for the lead role.
Led Zeppelin meets Buckley — almost. In the BBC documentaryJeff Buckley: Everybody Here Wants You, classic rock titan Jimmy Page reveals Grace to be one of his favorite albums of the ’90s. Page also said that he would’ve loved to have collaborated with him.