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Jeff Buckley Biography

Last updated: 02/04/2014 07:10:38 PM

Jeff Buckley-photo
BORN: November 17, 1966, Orange County, CA
DIED: May 29, 1997

Born in California's Orange County on November 17, 1966, Jeff Buckley emerged in New York City's avant-garde club scene in the 1990's as one of the most remarkable musical artists of his generation. His first commercial recording, the four-song EP Live At Sin-e, was released in December 1993 on Columbia Records in the United States and Big Cat Records in the United Kingdom and Europe.

The EP captured Buckley, accompanying himself on electric guitar, in a tiny club in New York's East Village, the neighborhood he'd made his home; the record's selections included two cover tunes laced with soaring vocal improvisation: Edith Piaf's "Je N'en Connais Pas Le Fin," Van Morrison's "The Way Young Lovers Do" and two original songs showcasing his songwriting abilities: "Mojo Pin" and "Eternal Life." Buckley began to tour North America, the United Kingdom, France, and Holland as a solo acoustic/electric artist in support of the Live At Sin-e release.

During the fall of 1993, prior to the release of Live At Sin-e, Buckley entered the studio with his band, Mick Grondahl (bass) and Matt Johnson (guitar), and producer Andy Wallace to begin recording the seven original songs ("Mojo Pin," "Grace," "Last Goodbye," "So Real," "Lover, You Should Have Come Over," "Eternal Life," "Dream Brother") and three covers ("Lilac Wine," Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," Benjamin Britten's "Corpus Christi Carol") that comprise his debut album Grace. Guitarist Michael Tighe, who cowrote and performed on Grace's "So Real," joined Buckley's ensemble shortly thereafter as a permanent member.

In 1994, Jeff Buckley toured clubs, lounges, and coffeehouses in North America as a solo artist from January 15-March 5 as well as Europe from March 11-22; his "Peyote Radio Theatre Tour" of that year found him on the road with his band and lasted from June 2-August 16. His full-length full-band album, Grace was released in the United States on August 23, 1994, the same day Buckley and band kicked off a European tour in Dublin, Ireland; the 1994 European Tour ran through September 22, with Buckley and Ensemble performing at the CMJ convention at New York's Supper Club on September 24. The group headed back into America's clublands for a Fall Tour lasting from October 19-December 18.

On New Year's Eve 1994-95, Buckley returned to Sin-e to perform a solo concert; on New Year's Day, he read an original poem at the annual St. Mark's Church Marathon Poetry Reading. Two weeks later, he and his band were back in the United Kingdom for gigs in Dublin, Bristol, and London before launching an extensive tour of Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and the United Kingdom which lasted from January 29-March 5. On April 13 1995, it was announced that Jeff Buckley's Grace had earned him France's prestigious "Gran Prix International Du Disque -- Academie Charles CROS -- 1995"; an award given by a jury of producers, journalists, the president of France Culture, and music industry professionals, it had previously been given to Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Yves Montand, Georges Brassens, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell, among other musical luminaries.

France also awarded Buckley a gold record certification for Grace. Buckley and band's Spring Tour 1995 found them back in the U.S.A. with gigs running from April 20-June 2. The band took off for Down Under to play six Australian shows between August 28-September 6, 1995. In November 1995, Buckley played two unannounced solo shows at Sin-e and celebrated New Year's Eve 1995-96 with a performance at New York's Mercury Lounge.

Jeff Buckley and his touring ensemble went back to Australia, where Grace had earned a gold record certification, for the "Hard Luck Tour," which ran from February 9-March 1 of 1996. Drummer Matt Johnson left the group after the final Australian show. In May of '96, Jeff played four gigs as a bass player with Mind Science of the Mind, a side-project of Buckley's friend, Nathan Larson of Shudder To Think.

In September '96, Buckley played another unannounced solo gig at his old favorite haunt Sin-e. December of 1996 found Jeff Buckley embarking on his "phantom solo tour," a series of unannounced solo gigs played under a succession of aliases: the Crackrobats, Possessed By Elves, Father Demo, Smackrobiotic, Crit Club, Topless America, Martha & the Nicotines, A Puppet Show Named Julio.
On February 9, 1997, Jeff Buckley debuted his new drummer, Parker Kindred, in a show at Arlene's Grocery on New York's Lower East Side. He also played a couple of solo gigs in New York during the first months of 1997: a gig at the Daydream Cafe (featuring band members Mick Grondahl and Michael Tighe as "special guests") and a solo performance February 4 as part of the Knitting Factory's 10-Year Birthday Party.

Buckley and his current band line-up went to Memphis, Tennessee, in February 1997 to begin rehearsing in preparation for the recording, scheduled to commence June 30, of the eagerly-awaited follow-up to Grace. The new lineup debuted Buckley's new songs at Barrister's in Memphis on February 12 and 13. Beginning March 31, Jeff began a series of regularly scheduled Monday night solo performances at Barrister's. His last show there was on Monday, May 26, 1997.

In addition to his Columbia Records releases, Live At Sin-e and Grace, Jeff Buckley has appeared as a guest artist on several other recordings. He can be heard singing "Jolly Street," a track on the Jazz Passengers 1994 album In Love. He contributed tenor vocals to "Taipan" and "D. Popylepis," two recordings on John Zorn's Cobra Live At The Knitting Factory (1995). On Rebecca Moore's Admiral Charcoal's Song, Buckley plays electric six-string bass on "If You Please Me," "Outdoor Elevator," and "Needle Men" (on which he also plays drums).

He both plays guitar and sings backup vocals on Brenda Kahn's "Faith Salons," a key track on her Destination Anywhere album (released 1996). Patti Smith's critically acclaimed Gone Again album features Buckley adding "voice" to the song "Beneath the Southern Cross" and "essrage" (a small fretless Indian stringed instrument) to "Fireflies." On kicks joy darkness, a various artists' spoken word tribute to beat poet Jack Kerouac, Jeff Buckley collaborated with erstwhile Nymphs' vocalist Inger Lorre on "Angel Mine"; Jeff plays guitar, sitar, and mouth sax (adding words at the poem's conclusion) on the track.

An ardent enthusiast for a myriad of musical forms, Jeff Buckley was an early champion among young American musicians for the work of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the world's foremost Qawwali (the music of the Sufis) singer. Buckley conducted an extensive interview with Nusrat in Interview magazine (January 1996) and wrote the liner notes for the singer's upcoming The Supreme Collection album to be released on Mercator/Caroline Records in August 1997.


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