Five reasons Jeff Buckley fascinates film-makers

Jan 3, 2013
Richard A Jinman

Three upcoming movies about the singer confirm Buckley is a source of enduring fascination

IT WILL soon be impossible to ignore Jeff Buckley, the American singer who drowned in a Tennessee river in 1997 after releasing Grace, his critically acclaimed debut album. Buckley is the inspiration for a trio of upcoming movies: Greetings from Tim Buckley and A Pure Drop are both dramatised accounts of his life and troubled relationship with his father (the equally revered singer-songwriter Tim Buckley), while Mystery White Boy is an official biopic produced by his mother, Mary Guibert. So, why is Buckley Jnr such an object of fascination? Here are five suggestions.

He only made one, perfect album: Like all great cult albums Grace, released in 1994, did not immediately set the world on fire. It peaked at No. 149 in the US album chart and reviews were mixed. But as time went by it acquired a mythical status, becoming what Pitchfork’s Dominique Leone calls "one of the most engaging, inspired records ever made". In 2006,  Mojo magazine voted it the No.1 Modern Rock Classic of All Time.

He died young: Like Nick Drake, Brian Jones, Gram Parsons and, his own father, Tim Buckley, Jeff’s premature death at the age of 30 has enshrined him as one of rock’s fresh-faced 'lost boys'. He will never suffer from sagging flesh and a failing voice, or tarnish his reputation with an embarrassing reunion tour or substandard album.

The parallels with his father’s life are a bit freaky: The Hollywood Reporter calls Greetings from Tim Buckley a "haunting generational story of rock legends" and it’s hard to think of father and son musicians who both have as much credibility as Tim and Jeff Buckley. Weirdly, they both died young: Tim from a heroin overdose at the age of 28, Jeff from drowning after wading into Wolf River Harbor singing the chorus of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love.

He recorded the definitive version of Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen’s "secular hymn" has been covered by many artists, but Buckley’s version combines "the sexual and the spiritual" to become the "cornerstone" of Grace, says Spike Magazine’s Gary Marshall.

Even Robert Pattison wants to be him: The Twilight star was desperate to play Buckley in Mystery White Boy, according to E, but didn’t get the nod. The part went to Reeve Carney, the star of the Broadway musical Spiderman: Turn off the Dark.

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