Artist Profile: Jeff Buckley

A Look into the Life of a Rock Legend

Artist Profile: Jeff Buckley

Damian Walk, Staff Writer


If you’re a fan of rock music, as well as exploring cult classics behind it, read on.

Jeff Buckley was born on November 17, 1966 in Anaheim, California to Mary Guibert
and Tim Buckley. His father was a famous rock musician. They only met once when Jeff was eight. Buckley‘s father overdosed on heroin two months later and was not invited to the funeral.


He began playing guitar at the age of five and was given his first electric guitar at the age of thirteen. During high school, he joined the school’s jazz band. After graduation, he worked in a hotel for the next six years He enrolled at the Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles to study guitar. For a time, he seemed bent on emulating his hero, Jimmy Page. He served as a guitarist in numerous struggling bands and almost a decade as a session artist in Los Angeles.


Buckley debuted at a Tim Buckley tribute concert in Brooklyn on April 26, 1991. Few realized that the deceased Buckley had a biological son. Tim Buckley’s former manager extended an invitation for him to perform. Buckley was unsure at first but ultimately accepted, sensing that the event would allow him to process his unresolved feelings for his father and used it to pay his last respects. Those in attendance recall the first half being somewhat tedious. Then the room went dark as Buckley took the stage, his back turned to the audience at first, as he launched into “I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain,” written by his father, a goodbye to his wife and infant son he was leaving behind. 


Midway through the song, a light on the stage was switched on, bathing Buckley in a Christ-like glow and dramatically casting his silhouette onto the back wall. He later compared it to the Second Coming. During the later half of the evening he performed two more songs, “Sefronia — The King’s Chain” and “Phantasmagoria in Two.” His finale featured Buckley alone with an acoustic guitar, singing “Once I Was.” It was the first song his mother ever played him by his father. It was hard for him to learn it. He couldn’t do a really full version of it at home without crying. He broke a string onstage at the end of the song. They were brand new strings.


Local music figures stumbled over each other to stuff their business cards into his pockets, and more than a few women flocked to help dry the tears of this sensitive soul. Within weeks he had settled in New York full time and nurtured relationships that began at St. Ann’s and was signed with Columbia Records. He recorded Grace after weeks of finding members for his band. Grace was released in August 1994.


On May 29, 1997, Buckley’s band was supposed to meet him in Memphis to work on For My Sweetheart The Drunk. Later, Buckley decided to go for a swim in Wolf River Harbor. It wasn’t the first time that he had gone to swim there. Keith Foti remained ashore keeping the boombox and guitar dry. Foti turned around for a second. While Buckley was humming the chorus of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, a passing boat sucked Buckley under, and he drowned.His body was recovered six days later on June 4 the Wolf River Harbor near a riverboat. After an autopsy, drug overdose was ruled out and the investigators concluded that he had died of accidental drowning. Yet, some theorize that his death was a planned suicide.


Jeff Buckley Drowning Map