A talent too good for this world

Using his angelic voice to fuse a multitude of genres and tones Clash explores a talent too good for this world.

1. A product of the Greenwich Village folkie circuit, Buckley lived modestly, choosing to mix and live amongst the communes and squats where he found what he called “the last real writers, artists, expressionists; people I could relate to, people unafraid of society’s mores and dictates, willing to take a chance.”

2. Buckley has appeared as a guest artist on several other recordings than his own. He can be heard singing ‘Jolly Street’ on the Jazz Passengers album ‘In Love’, doing guitar and back-up vocals on Brenda Kahn’s ‘Faith Salons’, while Patti Smith’s ‘Gone Again’ features Buckley adding “voice” to ‘Beneath The Southern Cross’.

3. An enthusiast for a myriad of musical forms, Buckley was an early champion among American musicians for the work of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the world's foremost Qawwali singer. Buckley conducted an extensive interview with Nusrat in Interview magazine and wrote the liner notes for the singer’s ‘The Supreme Collection’.

4. Jeff’s debut album ‘Grace’ earned him France's prestigious Grand Prix International Du Disque from the Académie Charles-Cros in 1995; an award given by a jury of producers, journalists and the president of French Culture. It had previously been given to Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, among other musical luminaries.

5. Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell was another long-time friend of Jeff’s, and was invited by Jeff’s mother Mary Guibert to produce posthumous release ‘Sketches (For My Sweetheart The Drunk)’. Jeff and Chris were big admirers of each other’s work, and Cornell is a respected musician and producer in his own right.

6. His tessitura (comfortable singing range) was between E below middle C, which he often started verses on, and the notes D right above middle C and F# - used in most of his choruses. He also used his high A frequently. A typical lyric tenor tessitura; the same range as Pavarotti.

7. Despite his fondness for covers Buckley was more often excited about current music, claiming the ’60s and ’70s as “shit”. However he was a huge fan of the The Smiths, mentioning live in Chicago that they were the only good thing about 1980s music. Another fan of the trademark quiff.

8. As part of Gary Lucas’ Gods & Monsters, an early version of ‘Mojo Pin’ materialized with Lucas writing guitar parts. Buckley later invited him to record said parts in the studio while making ‘Grace’. “Plainly speaking, it’s a euphemism for a dropper full of smack that you shoot in your arm.”

9. Buckley reluctantly agreed to perform at a tribute concert for his father in April of 1991 at St. Ann’s Church in Brooklyn. “It wasn’t my work, it wasn’t my life. But it bothered me that I hadn’t been to his funeral. I used that show to pay my last respects.”

10. Acclaimed producer Andy Wallace, who worked with Buckley on his full-length debut, recalled the singer’s insatiable musical appetite and eclectic taste. “Buckley had the audio equivalent of a photographic memory… Not only everything from [Charles] Mingus to Sonic Youth, but every verse of ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy’.” That’s a broad range.

Words by Sam Walker-Smart

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