Happy Birthday, Jeff Buckley -- Ten Tribute Songs in His Memory
Buckley had absorbed a host of influences while growing up, most of them connected to classic-rock acts like Queen, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, the Who, and Pink Floyd, artists he was turned on to by his stepdad. His mother, a classically trained musician, encouraged his desire to sing harmony and learn an instrument. After finding an abandoned guitar in his grandmother's closet at age 5, he practiced his playing in earnest. An early fascination with Kiss gradually morphed into a preoccupation with jazz and fusion, eventually leading him to the likes of Genesis, Yes, and guitarist Al Di Meola.
Those myriad styles played little part in the music he made on his own, but the legacy he left was far more emphatic. Several recordings were released after his death, mostly live sessions -- a concert DVD recorded live in Chicago, among them -- and assorted demos, including those that were added to the unfinished My Sweetheart the Drunk and several that fleshed out an expanded rerelease of Grace. Meanwhile, his definitive cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" scaled the charts both here and abroad and continues to be featured regularly in radio rotation worldwide.
Like many artists who exited too soon, admiration for Buckley's work only increased after his passing. Buckley tributes continue to take place all over the planet, with annual gatherings that affirm his musical influence. There have been numerous documentaries as well -- Fall in Light, produced for French TV; Goodbye and Hello, a spotlight on both Buckley and his father that was produced for Dutch television; and Everybody Here Wants You, a documentary filmed by the BBC. In addition, when the hourlong film Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley was screened at various film festivals, it received an exceptional reception and was later added to the Grace Around the World Deluxe Edition. A bio-flick with the working title Mystery White Boy is also said to be in the pipeline.
There have been other accolades as well. In 1998, Buckley received a posthumous Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for his track "Everybody Here Wants You." Rolling Stone cited Grace as 303rd among the top 500 Greatest Albums in a 2003 music poll. The following year, the magazine placed Buckley's cover of "Hallelujah" at number 259 in a list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and Buckley himself was ranked number 39 in its 2008 list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. In addition, in 2006, the respected U.K. publication Mojo named Grace the Number One Modern Rock Classic of all Time.
Perhaps the most heartfelt tributes have come from fellow musicians. Those who have proclaimed him as an influence and inspiration include such luminaries as Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Matt Bellamy of Muse, Alanis Morissette, Chris Cornell, Brandi Carlile, Pete Yorn, Rufus Wainwright, Ray Lamontagne, and P.J. Harvey. Harvey, an early acquaintance, eulogized him in her song "Memphis": "In Memphis... die suddenly, at a wonderful age, we're ready to go." Wainwright, who also knew Buckley, penned the track "Memphis Skyline," which contained the fateful lines "Then came hallelujah sounding like mad Ophelia, for me in my room living, turn back and you will stay, under the Memphis Skyline." Other musical salutes include:
10. Duncan Sheik's song "A Body Goes Down," from his 1998 album Humming, written in response to Buckley's drowning,