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Why Does Jeff Buckley Matter?

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 16, 2004 7:08PM

The mythology of The Day The Music Died hangs heavy over the world of rock music; it immediately evokes the tragedy of missed opportunity and loss. Few artists who have died in the midst of still relevant careers are able to escape its grip as commentators note that the artist was “turning their life around” or “on the verge of stardom.” True or not, it’s a generally accepted precept that we not speak ill of the dead.

Image: Flowers In Time ( Jeff Buckley’s case, it’s true. Buckley died in a drowning accident in Memphis on May 29th, 1997. Before his death, he had released a sublime EP (Live at Sin-é) and a highly acclaimed full-length album entitled Grace. While it might be overstating things to say that Jeff Buckley was one album away from widespread fame, listening to the unfinished album Sketches for My Sweetheart The Drunk reveals an artist who had just begun to hit his stride. For anyone who enjoys the lonely heartbreak of Ryan Adams but wishes for a few less tantrums, Buckley is your man.

In death, the stature of an artist grows. The rough edges are smoothed out and the accolades that escaped him or her in life are given posthumously. So too with Buckley. Events all over the country this week will be celebrating his life and music. Tonight at 7 PM the 7th Annual Jeff Buckley Tribute Concert begins at Uncommon Ground Café (on Grace Street no less!). The event includes great comfort food and an evening of music from a cadre of artists. Net proceeds will go to the Old Town School of Folk Music Scholarship Fund.

Buckley would be thirty-eight tomorrow. Whether his work would have had as much impact in life as in death will never be known. But there’s no denying that his meager catalog remains a vital force in the careers of many artists who have followed him.