FEATURE: First Grace, Then We Eat: Jeff Buckley: His Own Voice: What More from the Departed Legend?




First Grace, Then We Eat

IMAGE CREDIT: Cassell/Getty Images

Jeff Buckley: His Own Voice: What More from the Departed Legend?


THERE is great news for Jeff Buckley fans such as myself...

 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

as it has been announced a new book, Jeff Buckley: His Own Voice, will arrive very soon. I am a massive Buckley fan and usually snap up everything comes from him. He died in 1997 and it is sad that we only got one album, Grace, from him – one studio album at least. There have been compilations such as You and I and his ‘second studio album’ Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk was, essentially, some complete recordings and demos that were left after his death. It seems strange he is not in the world anymore and I recall the day he died. I was only fourteen at the time but it seemed like 1997 was a bleak year in general. Maybe it was a tough school year but a lot was happening. Who knows what could have been if Buckley had lived; who knows where he could have gone. There have been live albums and some rare vinyl but, mostly, there has been a lot of promise and the tragedy of hypothetical questions. One can get a glimpse of who Buckley was from his music; interviews were invaluable and protected him in a new light. Who was Buckley away from the studio and the stage?! He was quite a shy man and did not discuss his personal life in explicit detail.

Now, after this time, we will see a book on rare photos and journal entries that reveal new secrets and sides of Buckley. Rolling Stone covered the news:

A new book will provide an intimate look at Jeff Buckley’s creative process and personal life using reproductions of his handwritten lyrics, diary entries and letters. The singer’s mother, Mary Guibert, co-wrote the upcoming Jeff Buckley: His Own Voice with Rolling Stone Senior Writer and Buckley biographer David Browne. The book will come out on October 15th.

The singer-songwriter meticulously kept journals of his daily life, his goals, inspirations and struggles his entire life, and the book draws heavily on those. It also contains reproductions of memorabilia like notes and unpublished lyrics, as well as previously unpublished photos. Drawing on all this source material, the book offers an account of Buckley’s life, from growing up in Orange County, California to journal entries written in the months leading up to his death in May 1997.

“There have been and probably always will be those who wish to speak for my son, take credit for his success or put words in his mouth,” Guibert, who is also the executor of her son’s estate, said in a statement. “In choosing these pages to share with the world, I’m giving him the chance to speak with his own voice, for the record … and for his fans to see what a sweet, funny, amazing human being he was.”

 PHOTO CREDIT: Mikio Ariga

“As Jeff’s biographer, I often wondered what made him wander down a particular path in his life or music,” said Browne, who previously chronicled Buckley’s life, and his father’s, in Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. “With His Own Voice, we now have a better sense of those choices, thanks to these never-before-published journals, letters and musings. We’re honored to present these to world and let Jeff have his say on so many aspects of his life”.

I’d like to say that I know everything there is to know about Buckley in terms of what was revealed to the public. I have heard all the albums and E.P.s out there and read every book; I have scoured all of his interviews and generally embraced everything he left us. I guess there are recordings still in the vault but, every time a new Jeff Buckley project comes up, there is always that talk of exploitation and cashing-in. Is it right, when he is not here, to publish his diary entries and these photos? Some will argue that it is against Buckley’s wishes and he has no say over his private thoughts. One can counter-argue that this is speculative and, if he were alive today, he would have shared this with his fans. I never buy the opinion that cashing-in is behind re-releases and these compilations. Buckley died too young and there is always going to be an appetite for new stuff.


  PHOTO CREDIT: Mikio Ariga

If there are some half-finished songs then it is better than having nothing – what use is it keeping those aside when fans want to hear them?! There have been some flawed attempts to bring Jeff Buckley’s life to screen and I am amazed that there have not been more radio and T.V. documentaries about his life. This is something that would be welcomed and would not need other actors to help tell his story. I think it will be bittersweet seeing Buckley’s journals and a sense of optimism/fear. These words will reveal what he felt away from the crowds and what he wanted to achieve. The saddest thing is wondering whether the predictions and hopes he expressed were ever realised. It will be good to see some candid shots and rare photos that we have not seen before. In all, I think it is a good idea. Unless it is quite explicit and violates his privacy – in which case I would object – then there seems no harm in bringing out this book. I know there is a graphic novel coming out that will be a representation of Buckley’s only studio album, Grace, and its creation. It is nearly twenty-two years since he died and, of course, new people are discovering his music. There is a lot of music out there but it seems 2019 is quite an interesting time.

I wonder why, now, there is this activity and fresh revelation?! It is a good thing but one cannot help but wonder whether we will get more compilations and material that is inessential. I am a hypocrite because I have just ordered a vinyl of Buckley laying down some of his early Grace sessions. These, to me, are fascinating windows into what would become one of the greatest albums of the 1990s and a staggering debut. If someone were to just throw out some lazy albums of demos and covers that Buckley did then it would seem crass but I do respect the decision to bring some of his private words to life. I guess there is no good in ignoring them but one might say that privacy and respect is being ignored. It is difficult but there is a vacuum and we all miss Buckley a lot. I am not keen on seeing a biopic because that is something Buckley would have hated. Nobody can take his place and it would have been criminal for an actor to try and match his voice. There have been some rather poor attempts to put him into films and, back in 2013, there were endless projects speculated. It has calmed down a bit and I do think that a lot of people would rather Buckley-through-film was ignored; nobody can live up to his magic and wonder. A documentary would be good and, whilst there have been some, there is so much to explore regarding Buckley and his music: from his heroes and influences right to his days playing in coffee shops around New York.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

I think, after the flurry of activity happening this year, we should be guiding people to the material out there. Get new ears listening to Grace and turn them on to his amazing live performances. I interview a lot of artists and so many name Grace as one of the most influential albums in their collection. That desire and love of Buckley will never die and demand for Buckley-related material remains strong. I will go and buy Jeff Buckley: His Own Words and read what is in there. To look at photos and remember him; to read words and feel connected to him will be quite a special thing. It’s heartbreaking that he is no longer around and we do not get to see where he would be right now – Buckley would be in his fifties by now! How strange to think that this ever-young and cherub-like man would be middle-aged and, one hopes, still touring. Rather than get sad and think about what could have been, this book will give us stuff we have not seen and read yet. For a causal fan, it is a great place to start and realise why Buckley was so loved: for the diehards and super-fans, it is something to add to the collection. I am looking forward and hope that there is that balance between much-needed insight and protecting Buckley’s most intimate and personal feelings. If this happens, and the book finds that balance, then it will create a new surge of interest in Buckley. He still inspired artists nearly twenty-five years since Grace’s release. It all seems very strange and sad but I am so glad people still talk about Buckley and hold him dear. That sense of love, backing and passion is something Jeff Buckley would…


HAVE been glad to see.