Jeff Buckley’s Enduring ‘Grace’
Fifteen years after his death, cult figure Jeff Buckley is about to enjoy a posthumous second act thanks to a new film making the rounds at the Toronto International Film Festival. With the hair and the jawline to, at the very least, pull off brooding as Buckley’s doppelgänger, not to mention the hair and the Gossip-Girl following to pull in a loyal subset of teen girls, Penn Badgley has been cast as the mercurial musician responsible for teaching disaffected Gen-Xers how to feel. Speculating on the complicated nature of Buckley’s own feelings for his father, wayward folk singer Tim Buckley, Daniel Algrant’s fictional biopic, Greetings from Tim Buckley, follows Jeff as he participates in a 1991 tribute concert for the man he barely knew.
Sadder than fiction is the score of modern tribute songs that have arisen since the “Lilac Wine” singer drowned in 1997. The best of the hat-tippers have written spare homages that exhibit the kind of exposed-nerve aesthetic – honest, unselfconscious, subsumed beneath pathos – that made Buckley the original to emulate. We’ve compiled a sampling of our favorites* below, as well as listed a few artists who’ve attempted to pay their respects to the master-grown-mythic-in-memory by putting their own, personal spin on his hits. As to their success, you can judge by comparing them with Jeff Buckley himself at the very bottom of the post.
*In case you like our eulogizers so much you want to hear more of them, we’ve included ticket links to several of their upcoming shows here
Jeff Buckley Movie 2012
Artists Inspired by Jeff Buckley: Tribute Songs
Aimee Mann: “Just Like Anyone”
Willie Nile: “On the Road to Calvary”
Rufus Wainwright: “Memphis Skyline”
While Aimee Mann’s simple ode, Kashmir’s awe-struck paen, and Willie Nale’s lyrical nod all have their place in the pantheon of Buckley tributes, if you’re going to listen to one song inspired by Jeff Buckley, let it be Rufus’ delicate, devastating “Memphis Skyline.” Interweaving the myth of Orpheus with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, you don’t need to catch all of Wainwright’s allusions to appreciate his feat of making envy affecting. An honest look at the meeting of creative love and competition, Rufus’ plea to “turn back the cogs of time” will have you hitting repeat as the least you can do.
Jeff Buckley Covers
Scarlett Johansson: “Last Goodbye”
Jasper Steverlinck: “Forget Her”
Kimbra: “So Real”
Tim Buckley Cover
This Mortal Coil: “Song to the Siren”