Sometime back in the 90’s I was walking back home from a photo shoot when I happened upon this little café on 9th Street (East Village, NYC) called Sin-e. This place was SO packed that it wasn't merely standing room only, there were actually people standing on the sidewalk--some peering through the window, others merely listening--while this guy inside was standing there playing his guitar with such deftness, only matched by his beautiful, rapturous voice. I was tired as all hell, but I was only a block away from my apartment, so I decided to hang around for a while. I asked aloud, "Who is this guy?"
A cacophony of voices answered: "JEFF BUCKLEY." Thus, my love affair with Jeff’s music began.
Years later, I got my hands on a copy of Jeff's GRACE album. It left me speechless. Not only were the songs incredibly written, the vocals like nothing I had ever heard before, but also the lyrics were so hauntingly sad and beautiful all at once, I was often left in tears.
Jeff died in a drowning accident in May of 1997--he was working on a long anticipated new album. The news struck me like a knife to the heart. "How could he be taken away--his voice was such a 'gift'!" I played GRACE so loud during the week after his death that several tenants in my building stopped by my apartment to ask who I was listening to. They couldn't get over Jeff's voice.
On the day of Jeff's funeral, I had just flown back from California and didn't make it back in time for the service. I stood outside of St. Mark's Church (where I played guitar on Sunday's) and watched as the funeral mourners filed out of the church. My favorite of Jeff's songs came to mind, LOVER, YOU SHOULD HAVE COME OVER:
Looking out the door, I see the rain fall upon the funeral mourners
Parading in a wake of sad relations as their shoes fill up with water...
I went home and wrote Jeff's mother, Mary, a letter. I promised her that as long as I was playing shows at CB's 313 Gallery, that I would always include one of Jeff's songs in my set. She sent me a lovely letter, as well as one of Jeff's used guitar picks, which, of course, I still have.
To this day, Jeff's music still haunts me. Every time I listen to GRACE, it sounds brand new to me. Due to nerve damage in my arm, I can't play the guitar anymore, and so I dedicate this post to Mary, as an offering of my love for Jeff and all that he stood for. If you haven't heard his voice, you are missing a tremendous source of joy and inspiration.