Jeff Buckley, raised as Scott Moorhead, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. After a decade as a session guitarist in Los Angeles, Buckley amassed a following in the early 1990s by playing cover songs at venues in Manhattan’s East Village, such as Sin-é. In 1994, he recorded what would be his only studio album, Grace. Over the following two years, Buckley toured widely to promote the album, including concerts in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Australia. In 1997, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, to resume work on his second album, to be titled My Sweetheart the Drunk, recording many four-track demos while also playing weekly solo shows at a local venue. On May 29, 1997, while awaiting the arrival of his band from New York, Buckley drowned during a spontaneous evening swim, fully clothed, in the Mississippi River when he was caught in the wake of a passing boat; his body was found on June 4. He was born on November 17, 1966.
It’s been 18 years now. Jeff Buckley’s death occurred four days after my high school graduation. So many young musicians that mattered to me were lost while I was in high school (1993-1997): Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Eazy-E (N.W.A), Jack Vigliatura (For Squirrels), Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon), Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Jeff Buckley. There were probably more that I’m forgetting. The deaths of Vigliatura and Buckley were maybe the saddest to me because they were such freak accidents. I’ll always remember the story that Radiohead’s Thom Yorke recorded the final version of “Fake Plastic Trees“—a song that holds a lot of meaning for me personally—immediately after seeing a Jeff Buckley performance in London. Apparently Radiohead was finding it difficult to nail the song and decided to take a break and catch a Buckley gig at Highbury in 1994. When they returned to the studio mesmerized by Buckley’s set, Yorke recorded the song and broke down into tears. Since Buckley’s death, numerous artists have recorded tributes. And, well, now I feel a little sad. Rest in peace, everybody.