Tim And Jeff Buckley - Tragic Tale Of A Musician Father And Son

by frugalrvers

The deaths of Tim and Jeff Buckley, father and son, are hard to grasp. Not only the talent lost, but how both musicians died at almost the same age, at the height of their careers.

The story of Tim and Jeff Buckley, two famous musicians who were father and son, would be hard to believe as a novel or play, but their tragedy is a completely factual tale.

Their work as songwriters, singers, performers, and musicians comprises some of the most original and acclaimed music of the rock era, and their albums regularly appear on best record lists.

They both lived intensely, were known for their charisma and physical attractiveness, and died tragically. Such an intertwining of lives and stories is rare, but truth in this case is indeed stranger than fiction.

MY PERSONAL STORY - One Of The Best Jeff Buckley Songs, Hallelujah

Original Song By Leonard Cohen

This article is a summary on the lives and deaths of two musicians, Tim Buckley and Jeff Buckley, who were father and son. By their mid to late 20s they both were at the top of their musical careers. By the time they were thirty, they both had tragically died. It's a tale like no other in the music world.

But to add more passion to this already passionate tale, I want to start with telling you how I learned about Jeff Buckley, the son.

It was the summer of 1997 and I had just begun getting to know/date my now husband (who is the author on the rest of this article, by the way!). He was quite the bachelor and absolutely an encyclopedia of music. He knew every type of music, every musician - and was passionate about the sound and feel...it was NOT background "noise," it was an event to be breathed in, savoring every last note.

One sunny afternoon, I went over to his house. He led me into his living room where, and I kid you not, there was a rickety metal tv stand in the center of one wall (no tv...yeah!), a beautiful white CD player and other essential equipment I still don't know to this day. On either side of the cd player were floor to ceiling, vintage Magnapan speakers...so that was one wall.

Opposite that wall and the ONLY other piece of furnishing in that living room was an old recliner, centered perfectly between the two speakers across the room (later learned this is the ultimate listening layout).

I had never heard of Jeff Buckley - and he didn't tell me who it was. He just said to "sit down" and then he played "Hallelujah" really loud. I am passionate about music, too...and I felt my eyes get wet, the hair on my arms stood up on end and when it was all over, I couldn't shake the feeling.

When I asked who it was, my husband told me it was Jeff Buckley, while handing me the CD of his album, "Grace." On the cover, a hauntingly attractive young man, who I could not believe this voice came from. But before I could get more information out or questions answered, Jim said to me:

"Jeff died in a drowning accident a few months ago."

I wanted to sob so much, not knowing why - but just flooded with emotion. I also knew that Jim was absolutely my soul mate from that day forward. We actually met through music and have been performing together since 1997, too.

In little time, Jim caught me up to date with not only Jeff Buckley's story, but his father's sad tale as well.

I fell in love with so many of Jeff's songs, I still love to play his music in our rv with the lights dim and candles burning - for perfect atmosphere to match that voice which, in my opinion, was just too perfect for this world.

Jeff Buckley Poster And Tim Buckley Poster

Jeff Buckley B& W Poster
Tim Buckley Poster Morning Glory

Tim Buckley And Jeff Buckley Biography - Dream Brother

Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley

Listen To Jeff Buckley Sing Hallelujah

Tim Buckley Jeff Buckley: Separate Lives, Similar Lives

Tim Buckley was born in 1947, the only child of Tim Buckley Jr. and Elaine Buckley. He was interested in music from an early age, and was apparently a precocious child. The home he grew up in was filled with a variety of music due to his parents' love for jazz, popular, and country genres.

By the age of 13 he had become a student of the banjo and guitar, and started learning to play folk songs in the current hootenanny style. He soon formed a folk group with some friends and they began playing publicly at high school events.

He began his secondary schooling as an athlete and an active, popular student, but as he matured in the last 2 years he became disinterested in academics. He graduated and tried college, but quickly decided that his career was in music.

Tim had started performing music with a couple of talented friends in high school who became part of his musical life, and also met his first wife and the mother of his only son Jeff at this time. Mary Guibert and Tim were married in his senior year and her junior year in the fall of 1965, when she thought that she was pregnant. The pregnancy turned out to be a false one, and the couple endured a tempestuous year of an on and off relationship. They split for good in October of 1966, just one month before Jeff was born. Tim had little contact with his son, and Jeff recalled seeing his father only once, when he was 8 years old. It was a moving and memorable meeting for both, but unfortunately Tim would die not long after.

Tim's musical career is the stuff of legend. He started out as a folk-singer, but moved into hybrids of jazz, folk and rock, in a mercurial and sometimes unsuccessful attempt to satisfy his need for originality. His fans found it hard to follow his changes, but the body of work he produced – nine albums during his lifetime and many posthumous records – stands as a magnificent product of the 60s and early 70s.

Jeff Buckley was raised by his mother and step-father in southern California. Mary was a trained cellist and pianist and Ron Morehead was a fan of hard and progressive rock, so there was always music in the home. Like his father, Jeff showed an interest in music when he was young, playing an acoustic guitar when he was 5, and got his first electric guitar at 13. He played in his high school jazz band and learned and absorbed classic rock and other types of music. After graduating he attended music school for a year, and then started playing sessions and live shows for other performers, while gigging in his own bands in a variety of musical styles.

Ironically, his big break came when he was invited to perform at a tribute concert held in his father's honor in the spring of 1991. Jeff had recorded some demos with Herb Cohen, Tim's former manager, and Cohen asked Jeff to play at the tribute. His performance of 4 of his father's songs live was apparently a standout at the event. Soon he was playing solo shows at a prestigious coffeehouse in New York City, and within a year had been signed to Columbia Records with a million-dollar contract.

He recorded his classic album (and only one, during his lifetime) entitled Grace, which included the song "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, and it was released in 1994. Extensive worldwide touring and then more recording followed, and his death occurred in 1997 while he was working on the follow-up to Grace in Memphis.

Read about Jeff's musician girlfriend, Joan Wasser, for even more information on this sad tale.

Jeff Buckley Father, Tim Buckley, Death

Tim Buckley was a risk-taker by all accounts, and he was accustomed to all the excesses of the rock and roll lifestyle. He drank and experimented with drugs throughout his life, but at the time of his death he had actually managed to stay sober and clean for an extended period.

After a lengthy tour in support of his last album Look At the Fool, he and his band decided to celebrate with a week-end long binge of drinking and partying. His friend Richard Keeling had procured some heroin, and and after an argument angrily told Buckley to take it all. Buckley, whose tolerance for the drug had been lowered due to his abstinence, took the dare, and took too much. Along with the alcohol he had ingested, it was enough to kill him. He was 28 years old at the time, barely past the age of 27.

Tim Buckley Music On CD (Many On Vinyl, Too)

These Are Just Some Of Many Tim Buckley CDs
Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley AnthologyHappy SadOriginal Album Series

Jeff Buckley Drowning

The death of Jeff Buckley was an entirely different kind of passing, although equally tragic and unexpected. He was riding high with the success of Grace, was in a serious romantic relationship with his girlfriend, Joan Wasser, a talented female musician and was intent on keeping his career momentum going.

He was in Memphis with his band, and they had been working on his next recording at a leisurely pace. Near the Mississippi, on a canal-like tributary called Wolf River, Jeff had been in the habit of occasionally going for a swim. On the day of his death he was in a good mood, singing and feeling playful as he jumped into the murky water fully clothed, with even his boots remaining on.

His band mate turned around to move a boombox as a passing motorboat threw a wake up on the shore, and when he turned back towards Jeff he had vanished. Despite attempts to find him, his body was not discovered until the next day.

He had no alcohol or drugs in his body, and the death was ruled accidental by drowning. It was an unusual way to die among rock stars – only Brian Jones (Forever 27 Club) among the pantheon, died by drowning. Jeff Buckley died at 30 years of age, almost the same age as his father.

Dream Brother Tribute Album - Musicians Cover Tim Jeff Buckley Songs

Dream Brother: Songs of Tim & Jeff Buckley

Tim Buckley And Jeff Buckley's Legacies

It could be said that the primary instrument of both men – the voice – was passed down from Tim to Jeff. Both singers had a wide range and were capable of enormous power, possessed a falsetto that was unequaled, and had the ability to make a lyric come to life with subtle nuances of expression.

They were both incredible songwriters, creating compositions that were complex, poetic, and at the same time melodic and accessible to everyone. They were almost virtuosic at their guitars, and were able to play and sing solo for hours and never lose an audience's attention. Both were capable band-leaders whose fellow musicians were also lifelong friends and among their biggest supporters and fans.

Of course there were differences between the father and son. While Tim was able to produce a large body of work during his lifetime, Jeff only released one album. Consequently, Jeff's work does not range as far and wide as Tim's did among various genres, but listeners certainly sense the potential for him to have done so had he lived. And the primary difference between the two is that Jeff died accidentally and was not an abuser of substances, while Tim took risks all of his life and was unable to resist the siren song of drugs.

May they both rest in peace.

Other Music Articles We've Written

One of the greatest tragedies in music history is the plane crash that took the lives of Ronnie Van Zant and the Gaines siblings, the early members of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The Forever 27 Club is something no musicians want to belong to, or do they? Is there a 27 club jinx? Find out about the list of artists who died at twenty seven years of age here.
For Bob Marley, cause of death is just one area of his life that is surrounded by myths. Here are some facts about this remarkable musician's life as well as death.
The death of Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon was to be another loss to the music world. He died at only 28 from an overdose, like so many other young, talented musicians we've lost...
Updated: 05/09/2018, frugalrvers
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Tim And Jeff Buckley Comments

Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
terry on 11/11/2016

I listened again this evening and enjoyed once more the haunting sounds of Tim Buckley. He's of my era (born late '40's) and I never tire of anything on the "Happy/Sad" or "Tim Buckley" albums. Few of my friends knew of him when I was 19 or 20 but I knew I'd discovered a very special - possible tormented - soul.

frugalrvers on 05/27/2013

Wordchazer, thanks for commenting! We don't watch tv so aren't aware of a reality tv star covering it, but we are with you - it is doubtful anyone could ever match the perfection in Jeff and Leonard's versions...I would never even try. One of my favorite ways to listen to Jeff's song is to light candles and turn off lights in the rv, then just be in the moment...it gives me goosebumps every time.

Guest on 05/26/2013

Jeff Buckley's version of Hallelujah was the first one I heard. I already knew of Leonard Cohen (Tower of Song) and after a penfriend introduced me to Jeff's music, I went straight back to Mr Cohen, the Master, to hear his version. Both are awesome songs but please do not expect me to listen to the version released by the reality TV winner a few years back. It's just not good enough...

Mira on 11/20/2012

Thank you, Robin! <3

frugalrvers on 11/20/2012

I hadn't noticed you did a Wizzley on Leonard Cohen - who created Hallelujah! How perfect, I've now linked to your fantastic article for those who want to learn the history of the song...

frugalrvers on 11/20/2012

Mira...I love meeting other Buckley fans! To be honest, I played the youtube song while writing the article, and got weepy again...15 years later (I do everytime though). Amazing what beautifully crafted music and talented musicians are able to evoke in human emotion, isn't it?
Thanks so much for posting your comment!

Mira on 11/20/2012

What an amazing article! It gave me goosebumps just remembering Buckley's version of Hallelujah and reading the story. Didn't know about his father, although I should, as I love that era, folk, folk rock, blues rock, psychedelic rock and, more and more lately, progressive rock. Thank you, Robin and Jim, for sharing! You made my day <3

You might also like

Forever 27 - The Myths, The Music, The Mystery

The Forever 27 Club is something no musicians want to belong to, or do they? ...

Tragic Music - Big Star Book Gives Great Bio About The Band

Rob Jovanovic wrote a book called "Big Star: The Short Life, Painful Death, a...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...