Tim and Jeff Buckley: two stars, one story

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When you say Buckley, the first thing that comes in your mind is usually Jeff. There is, however, another ingenious Buckley: one of the most innovative singers and among the few true poets able to create immortal verses. A man and an artist out of the ordinary, used to define himself a starsailor. A soul capable of deep, intimate lyrics, but also simple and direct at the same time: Tim Buckley.

Tim and Jeff, two men bound in the deep, yet forced to accept, throughout their existence, the pain for a relationship that never started. Before being father and son, both were children who missed the relationship with their father. Tim had a father, but he certainly wasn’t the prototype of the affectionate parent. As a veteran of World War II, he carried with him many ghosts and aggressivity and he was often releasing them on the little Tim, in those nights when he was drunk.

Jeff, on the other hand, never really had a father. Tim, in fact, abandoned his mother when she was pregnant. He didn’t even witness his birth. He flew to New York to pursue the musical opportunities the Big Apple, or perhaps to escape a responsibility that he wasn’t ready for, probably because nobody educated him for that. He will regret this choice during his life, and his lyrics proved it many times. He’ll meet his son few days before dying for an overdose, in 1975, when he was 28 and Jeff only 8. At his funeral, his son was not yet Jeff, nor Jeff Buckley. The family called him with his middle name, Scottie. The funeral was not logistically far, but he and his mother were not invited.

That missing invitation will open a wound that nothing will ever heal. Not even that grace that Jeff tries desperately to find during his whole life, the one he chose as the title of his only album (Grace). He will be able to greet his father only in a celebration, on April 26th, 1991, when he attends the memorial tribute concert in St. Ann Church in Brooklyn. He will play I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain, a song dedicated by Tim to his son and his wife. The legend says that in the end of that exhibition, Jeff’s guitar broke its strings and he ended up singing a cappella, alone, without music. Ghostly and unforgettable.

The whole art produced by Jeff Buckley and Tim is basically the story of an absence. A moment, something that flies away with no recover possibilities. For both, music will be a haven for the soul, a friend that alleviates the torments and the regrets, an ally against loneliness.

Tim and Jeff shared little time together, but their tragic fate was identical.

Father and son will be fatally bound by a tragic, premature death, not without mysteries. Tim dies for a heroin overdose. For Jeff, however, death comes by accidental drowning in Mississippi. After getting in the river completely dressed, singing Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, an anomalous wave generated by a passing boat swallowed him.

Two artists who lived their lives with the desperate, penalizing need to be loved. Their research has been constantly guided by their need for love. A need that we can find everywhere, reading their lyrics.

Two emblematic songs prove their sensibility more than others.

For Tim, it’s Phantasmagoria In Two.

Phantasmagoria is a form of theatre that uses an altered version of a magic lantern to project fantastic images on walls. In this song, Tim carries symbolically this theatrical magic in his feelings. The magic of a relationship, of a love. A love that, given its experience, is not only the love within a couple: it’s an universal love, it’s family love.

We all seek love and sharing… unfortunately few manage to reach this dimension, and we end up feeling divided, shattered in our emotions, imprisoned in a terrible loneliness that makes any “Phantasmagoria in Two” impossible.

The images of the video above fully describe Tim’s message and mood, his regret for that family warmth, for that love he had in his hands and he ran away from, because of his fears, his fragility, his weakness.

Regardinf Jeff, We All Fall In Love Sometimes is one of his many masterful interpretations. It’s the cover of Elton John’s classic and you can hear inside Jeff’s feelings, the emotional storyline, his urgency to explain the reasons of loneliness and life’s misunderstandings.

Two stars in the musical firmament. A unique story.

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Dario Giardi loves music, photography and writing. He is the author of “Trip among the notes. The Secrets of Musical Theory and Harmony”. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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