It was sometime around 1995 when I saw Jeff Buckley in concert. A friend and I went to see The Juliana Hatfield Three, and Buckley was the opening act. I’d heard “Last Goodbye” on the radio, found it to be an amazing song, but never explored him further. The show was in a dumpy little club on Landsdowne Street in Boston that closed down years ago when gentrification crashed into the Fenway area. Buckley was a quiet, unassuming guy when he took the stage, scruffy-looking, with goofy hair and a shy smile.
He blew the fucking doors off the place.
To this day, it remains one of the most emotional, arresting performances I’ve ever seen. Everyone in the crowd was stunned by him, and Hatfield herself confessed that it his act was nearly impossible to follow. This was a young man who was unquestionably destined for greatness. Of course, we know how this story ends — two years later he’d die in a channel of the Mississippi River, where he jumped in fully clothed and singing Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” It was all the more bizarre in that he was found to have no drugs or alcohol in his system — he simply drowned. To call it a tragic loss to the music world is an understatement.
Since then, he’s become somewhat legendary, most notably for his gorgeous cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” a song that’s been played in almost every television drama of the last ten years. Days worth of B-side material surfaced, resulting in a dozen or so posthumous albums, though none ever quite reached the heights that the stirring “Grace” ever did.
His life is, I suppose, ripe for a biopic, and director Jake Scott (Plunkett & Macleane, Welcome To The Rileys) has been tapped to helm the film. This is actually the second Buckley biopic in development — the first, Greetings From Tim Buckley, is in production and stars Penn Badgley and Imogen Poots, and will cover his earlier days. Scott’s film is still untitled, but he’s found his Buckley — Reeve Carney (The Tempest). Carney’s certainly got the look…
… and he can sing as well — he played Peter Parker in the Broadway
disaster production of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.
I’ve got mixed feelings about either film — I kind of want to have Buckley’s legacy live as what it is for now, let it rest for a bit before it gets Hollywoodized. At the same time, it could potentially be a fascinating film. I can’t imagine that both films will see the light of day, but who knows.
Anyway, I’ll leave you with what is, in my not particularly humble opinion, his greatest song. You can have your “Hallelujah” and “Last Goodbye.” I’ll take the heartrending beauty of “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” every single time.