It’s never over, my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder It’s never over, all my riches for her smiles when i slept so soft against her It’s never over, all my blood for the sweetness of her laughter It’s never over, she’s the tear that hangs inside my soul forever.
Remember Me? - Extract from Dream Brother Part 1 of 2
Buckley drowned three years ago. He’d seemed on the brink of a
brilliant rock ‘n’ roll future. Yet he had never shaken off his
obsession, part anger, part yearning, with the father he had barely
known - Tim Buckley, legendary singer-songwriter. David Browne on their
lives and destiny
Friday 15 December 2000 19.17 EST
Although dusk was in sight, the moist, breezy Memphis air still felt mosquito-muggy inside and outside. It was May 1997 and Jeff Buckley,
who had turned 30 about six months earlier, emerged from his bedroom in
black jeans, ankle-high black boots, and a white T-shirt with long
black sleeves and “Altamont” (in honour of the Rolling Stones’ anarchic,
death-shrouded 1969 concert) inscribed on it. Though officially out of
his 20s, he remained a rock'n'roll kid at heart. As he and his tour
manager Gene Bowen stood outside on the front porch, Jeff said he was
heading out for a while. Generally Bowen would accompany Jeff on
expeditions while on tour, but tonight Bowen needed space. Some
mattresses would be delivered shortly, and the last thing he needed was
Jeff bouncing around the house when they arrived.
So, when Jeff told Bowen he would be leaving with Keith Foti,
Bowen was mostly relieved. Foti was even more of a character than Jeff
was. A fledgling songwriter and musician and a full-time haircutter in
New York City, Foti had accompanied Bowen from New York to Memphis in a
rented van, the band’s gear and instruments crammed in the back. Stocky
and wide-faced, with spiky, blue-dyed hair, Foti, who was 23, could have
been the star of a Saturday morning cartoon show about a punk rock
Jeff told Bowen that he and Foti had decided to drive to the
rehearsal space the band would be using during the upcoming weeks. Bowen
told them to be back at the house by nine to greet the band. Jeff said
fine, and he and Foti ambled down the gravel driveway to the van parked
in front of the house.
Suddenly it dawned on Bowen: did Jeff and Foti know where the
rehearsal space was? For non-natives, Memphis’s layout can be confusing;
it wouldn’t be hard to get lost or suddenly find one’s self in a dicey
part of town. Bowen bolted through the front door, but the van was
already gone. Oh, well, he thought, they’ll find the building. After
all, they had been there just yesterday.
Cruising around Memphis in their bright yellow Ryder van, past
weathered shacks, barbecue joints, pawnshops and strip malls, Jeff and
Foti made for an unusual sight. Foti was in the driver’s seat, which was
for the best; Jeff was an erratic driver. They cranked one of Foti’s
mix tapes, and the two of them sang along to the Beatles’ I Am The
Walrus, John Lennon’s Imagine and Jane’s Addiction’s Three Days. Foti
and Jeff both loved Jane’s Addiction and its shamanesque, hard-living
singer, Perry Farrell. It took Jeff back to the days in the late 80s
when he was living and starving in Los Angeles, trying to make a name
It wasn’t Jeff’s fault that he shared some vocal and physical
characteristics with his father and fellow musician, Tim Buckley. Both
men had the same sorrowful glances, thick eyebrows and delicate, waifish
airs that made women of all ages want to comfort and nurture them. It
wasn’t Jeff’s fault, either, that he inherited Tim’s vocal range,
five-and-a-half octaves that let Tim’s voice spiral from a soft caress
into bouts of rapturous, orgasmic sensuality. In the 60s, Tim wrote and
sang melodies that blended folk, jazz, art song and R&B; he had a
large cult following himself, and some of those songs had been recorded
by the likes of Linda Ronstadt and Blood, Sweat & Tears.
When Jeff had begun writing his own music, he, too, moved in
unconventional ways, crafting rhapsodies that changed time signatures
and leapt from folkish delicacy to full-throttle metal roar. None of
this, he insisted, came from his father’s influence. His biggest rock
influence and favourite band was, he said, Led Zeppelin. To his friends,
Jeff talked about his bootleg of Physical Graffiti out-takes with more
affection and fannish enthusiasm than he ever did about the nine albums
his father had recorded during the 60s and 70s.
Tonight, for once, Tim’s ghost was not lurking in the rearview
mirror. If anything, Jeff seemed at peace with his father’s memory for
perhaps the first time in his life. Whenever Jeff had mentioned Tim in
the past, it was with flashes of irritation or resignation. He sounded
as if he were discussing a far-off celebrity, not a father or even a
family member. In a way, Tim was barely either: he and his first wife,
Mary Guibert, had separated before Jeff was born, and Jeff had been
raised to view Tim’s life and music warily. But in the past few months,
Jeff seemed to have begun to understand his father’s music and, more
importantly, his motivations.
Jeff’s years in Los Angeles hadn’t been fruitful, but when he moved
to New York in the autumn of 1991, a buzz began building around the
skinny, charismatic kid with the big-as-a-cathedral voice and the
eclectic repertoire. Many record companies came calling, and he
eventually, hesitatingly, put his name on a contract with one of them,
Columbia. After an initial EP, an album, Grace, finally appeared in
1994. A brilliant sprawl of a work, the album traversed the musical map,
daring listeners to find the common ground that linked its choral
pieces, Zeppelin-dipped rock and amorous cabaret. Certainly one of the
links was Jeff’s voice, an intense and seemingly freewheeling instrument
that wasn’t afraid to glide from operatic highs and overpowering
shrieks to a conversational intimacy.
Beyond being simply one of the most moving albums of the 90s, Grace
branded Jeff as an actual, hype-be-damned talent for the age. The record
business was always eager to promote newcomers in such a manner, but
here was someone with both a sense of musical history and seemingly
limitless potential. Like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison before him, he
appeared to be on the road to a long and commanding career in which even
a creative misstep or two would be worth poring over. Comparisons with
Tim were inevitable, and a disturbing number of fortysomethings had
materialised at Jeff’s concerts to ask him about his father. But, much
to Jeff’s relief, the comparisons had begun to diminish with each
Grace hadn’t been the smash hit Columbia would have liked, but
worldwide it had sold nearly 750,000 copies, and it was talked up by
everyone from Paul McCartney and U2 to Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy
Page. Fans in Britain, Australia and France adored him even more
passionately than those in America. To his managers and record company,
Jeff was a shining star, a gateway to prestige, money and credibility. A
very great deal was riding on the songs he was testing out on the
four-track recorder in the living room of his house in Memphis. Jeff
didn’t like to think about those pressures, which is partly why he moved
1,000 miles away from New York. Here, he could think, write, create.
The drive from Jeff’s house to Young Avenue, where the rehearsal room
was located, should have taken 10 minutes down a few tree-lined
streets. But something was wrong. Before Jeff and Foti knew it, nearly
an hour had passed and there was still no sign of the two-storey
red-brick building. They found themselves circling around a variety of
neighbourhoods, past underpasses for Interstate 240 and pawnshops. To
Foti, everything began to look the same.
Jeff had an idea. “Why don’t we go down to the river?” he said. It
sounded good to Foti, who had brought along his guitar and felt like
practising a song he was writing. Having a talented, well-regarded rock
star as an audience wouldn’t be so bad, either.
The Wolf River did not look particularly wolfish; it barely had the
feel of a river. The city government had passed an ordinance banning
swimming, but no signs indicated this restriction. According to locals,
there didn’t have to be, since everyone in Memphis knew it was far from
an ideal swimming hole. The first six inches of water could be warm and
innocuous-looking, but thanks to the intersection with the Mississippi
the undercurrents were deceptive. All day long and into the early hours
of the morning, 200ft-long barges carrying goods from the local
granaries and a cement factory hauled their cargo up and down the Wolf.
With their churning motors, the tugboats that pulled the barges were
even fiercer and had been known to create strong wakes. Local coastguard
employees had once witnessed a 16ft flat-bottom boat being sucked under
the water in the wake of a tug. Memphis lore had it that at least one
person a year drowned in the Wolf.
Even if Jeff had heard these stories, he either didn’t care or
disregarded them. Hopping over a 3ft-high brick wall, Jeff and Foti
strode across a cement promenade strewn with picnic tables. Then Jeff
hiked his black combat boots on to the bottom rung on the steel rail
that ran alongside the promenade and jumped over. Foti, gripping his
guitar, followed, and they found themselves barrelling down a steep
slope, swishing through knee-high brush, ivy and weeds.
On the way down, Jeff shed his coat - just dropped it in the brush.
“You’re not gonna leave it here, are you?” Foti asked, stopping quickly
to pick it up. Jeff didn’t seem to be listening. Carrying Foti’s boom
box, he continued down to the riverbank. The shore was littered with
rocks, soda cans and shattered glass bottles, and it quickly sloped into
the water just inches away. As gentle waves lapped on to the shoreline,
Jeff set Foti’s boom box on one of the many jagged slate rocks on the
bank, just an inch or so above the water. “Hey, man, don’t put my radio
there,” Foti told him. “I don’t want it going in the water. It’s my only
unit of sound.” Jeff didn’t seem to pay particular attention to that
By now, just after 9pm, Foti had strapped on his guitar and started
practising his song. Looking right at Foti, Jeff took a step or two
away, his back to the river. Before Foti knew it, Jeff was knee-high in
the water. “What are you doin’, man?” Foti said. Within moments, Jeff’s
entire body eased into the water, and he began doing a backstroke.
At first, Foti wasn’t too concerned: Jeff was still directly
offshore, just a few feet away. He and Foti began musing about life and
music as Jeff backstroked around in circles. “You know, the first one’s
fun, man - it’s that second one … ” Jeff said, his voice trailing off
as he continued to backstroke in the water.
With each stroke, Jeff inched more and more out into the river. Foti
noticed and said, “Come in, you’re gettin’ too far out.” Instead, Jeff
began singing Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love. “He was just on his own
at that point,” Foti says. “He didn’t really observe my concerns.” Jeff
had an impetuous, spur-of-the-moment streak. Many of his friends
considered it one of his most endearing qualities; others worried that
it bordered on recklessness. Like his father, he liked to follow his
muse, to leap into projects passionately and spontaneously, even if they
weren’t fashionable or appropriate. Take that night in 1975. Tim was on
his way home from a gruelling tour. His record sales were in freefall,
but lately he had tried to cut back on his drinking and drugging, and
was attempting to get his music and even a potential acting career on
track. On the way home from the last stop on his tour, he stopped by the
home of a friend, who offered up a few drugs. What was wrong with a
little pick-me-up after some exhausting road work? No one knew if Tim
realised exactly what he had snorted that late afternoon, but it
ultimately didn’t matter; he died that night of an overdose at the age
Although Jeff had experimented with drugs, he steered clear to avoid
his father’s fate, both physically and artistically; he had learned from
Tim’s mistakes in the matters of artistic integrity and handling the
music business. Onstage, Jeff would often make cracks about dead rock
stars, pretending to shoot up or breaking into spot-on mimicry of anyone
from Jim Morrison to Elvis Presley. Once this new album was completed,
he was planning to dig deeper into his family heritage and unearth the
truth behind the seemingly ongoing series of tragedies that haunted his
Tonight, as he backstroked in the water, Jeff appeared to feel freer
than he had in a while. The mere fact that he was in water was a sign of
change. Although he had grown up near the beaches of Southern
California, Jeff was never a beachcomber.
It was now close to 9.15pm, and Jeff had been in the river nearly 15
minutes. His boots and trousers must gradually have become more sodden
and heavy. He began swimming further toward the centre of the river,
circling around before drifting to the left of Foti. Then he began
swimming straight across to the other side, or so it appeared to Foti.
Directly across from them, on the opposite bank, was a dirt road that
ran right up from the river. It looked so close - maybe Jeff felt he
could reach it and take a quick stroll.
The tugboat came first, moments later. “Jeff, man, there’s a boat
coming,” Foti said. “Get out of the fucking water.” The boat was heading
in their direction, up from Beale Street. Jeff seemed to take notice of
it and made sure to be clear of it as it passed. The next time Foti
looked over, he still saw Jeff’s head bobbing in the water.
Not more than a minute had passed when Foti spied another boat
approaching. This one was bigger - a barge, perhaps 100ft long. Foti
grew more concerned and started yelling louder for Jeff to come back.
Once again, Jeff swam out of its path, and Foti breathed another sigh of
relief. In the increasing darkness, the speck that was Jeff’s head was
just barely visible.
Soon, the water grew choppy, the waves lapping a little more firmly
against the riverbank. Foti grew worried about his boom box. The last
thing he wanted was to see it waterlogged and unusable. Taking his eye
off Jeff for a moment, he stepped over to where Jeff had set the stereo
down on a rock and moved it back about five feet, out of reach of the
waves. Foti turned back around. There was no longer a head in the water.
There was nothing - just stillness, a few rippling aftershock waves,
and the marina in the distance. Foti began to scream out Jeff’s name.
There was no answer. He yelled more. He continued screaming for nearly
On the other side of the river, Gordon Archibald, a 59-year-old
employee of the marina, was walking near the moored boats with a friend
when he heard a single shout of “help”. Concerned, he looked out on to
the water. But he saw nothing, nor heard anything more.
The folk singer Tim Buckley, who was to become Jeff’s father, married Mary Guibert in 1965.
It was spring 1966, Mary Guibert was three months pregnant, 18 years
old, and Tim was out of town. Even before Tim left for New York, his
wife suspected he was spending time with other women. “By no stretch of
the imagination was this a marriage made in heaven,” she says. “He
hadn’t been faithful to me for very long. And I thought that was
perfectly acceptable because, after all, he was so wonderful, and I was
Mary says she told Tim about the pregnancy before he left for New
York, but that he told her he had to leave town and that she should move
back in with her family in Orange County, near LA, get a job, save
money, and “maybe get an abortion or whatever you want to do”, she
recalls him saying. Even then, Tim made no mention of another woman. “I
just had no idea,” Mary says. “A lot of denial going on. Tons of denial
on both sides, because he wouldn’t bring himself, to the very end, to
say, ‘You know, I really don’t love you very much’.” She sent Tim
letters to various addresses in New York; his replies came fitfully and
were pointedly vague. Finally, a mutual friend gave her the news: Tim
was in New York with a new girlfriend, and would be back in Los Angeles
Lee Underwood, guitarist in Buckley’s band and a great friend,
recalls the situation being a topic of discussion while he and Tim were
in New York that summer. Given the choice of returning to Mary and
Orange County or following what Underwood calls “his destined natural
way”, Tim “decided to be true to himself and his music, fully aware that
he would be accepting a lifetime burden of guilt. Tim left, not because
he didn’t care about his soon-to-be-born child but because his musical
life was just beginning; in addition, he couldn’t stand Mary. He did not
abandon Jeff; he abandoned Mary.”
Finally, some action had to be taken. Tim came to meet Mary at a
coffee shop near her home. What exactly happened remains unclear. Tim
never talked to his friends about it, while Anna Guibert, Mary’s mother,
recalls Tim giving Mary an ultimatum: divorce or abortion. According to
Mary, she asked Tim what they should do about the marriage and
pregnancy, and he replied, “You do whatever you have to do, baby”, and
hung his head.
Afterwards, Mary, who was by now many months pregnant, walked home,
told her mother the news and cried. As Anna Guibert remembers, “I said,
'That’s the best thing, honey. If he doesn’t want you, be free.’ She was
crazy about Tim. But he wanted his career. There was no place for a
baby in his life.“Mary, however, did want her baby.
He was born on Thursday, November 17, 1966, at 10.49pm, after 21
hours of labour. The issue of identity loomed even before the child left
the hospital. Mary named her son Jeffrey Scott - "Jeffrey” after her
last high-school boyfriend before Tim (“my last pure boy-girl
relationship, my last pure moment”) and “Scott” in honour of John Scott
Jr, a neighbour and close friend of the Guiberts who died in an accident
at the age of 17. Yet because Mary preferred Scott, the child was
instantly called Scotty by his family. Tim was not available for
consultation, since no one knew his whereabouts.
At school, Scotty was the eternal clown, making jokes, craving
attention and being more interested in music (including cello lessons
provided by the school) than grades. His second-floor bedroom became a
rock enclave, his most valuable possessions being a Hemispheres picture
disc by the prog-rock band Rush and all four of Kiss’s solo albums.
He had a guitar given to him by his grandmother, and although he
hadn’t learned to master it, he would sit and cradle it, “like Linus’s
blanket”, according to Willie Osborn, his childhood friend. Although
Jeff had taken his father’s name, his music tastes reflected none of
Tim’s influence. He was just eight years old when Tim died; they had had
their only proper encounter just months before.
The meeting between Tim and Jeff Buckley, April 1975.
Mary Guibert was flipping through a local newspaper when she saw a
listing for Tim Buckley’s upcoming show. It was, she says, “an
epiphany”. It had been six years since she and her first husband had
seen each other, and nearly as long since they had spoken. Mary and Jeff
took the hour-long drive to Huntington Beach, an oceanside town 10
miles southwest of Orange County, and arrived at the Golden Bear just
before Tim walked on-stage. They took a seat on a bench in the second
Jeff seemed enraptured, bouncing in his seat to the rhythms of Tim’s
12-string guitar and rock band. “Scotty was in love,” Mary says. “He was
immediately entranced. His little eyes were just dancing in his head.”
To Mary, Tim was still a dynamic performer, bouncing on his heels with
his eyes shut, but she also felt he looked careworn for someone still in
At the end of the set, no sooner had Mary asked her son if he wanted
to meet his father than the kid was out of his seat and scurrying in the
direction of the backstage area. As they entered the cramped dressing
room, Jeff clutched his mother’s long skirt. It seemed a foreign and
frightening world to him, until he heard someone shout out, “Jeff!”
Although no one had called him that before in his life - he was still
“Scotty” to everyone - Jeff ran across the room to a table where Tim was
resting after the show.
Tim hoisted his son on to his knees and began rocking him back and
forth with a smile as Jeff gave his father a crash course on his life,
rattling off his age, the name of his dog, his teachers, his
half-brother and other vital statistics. “I sat on his knees for 15
minutes,” Jeff wrote later. “He was hot and sweaty. I kept on feeling
his legs. 'Wow, you need an iceberg to cool you off!’ I was very
embarrassing - doing my George Carlin impression for him for no reason.
Very embarrassing. He smiled the whole time. Me too.”
Tim’s drummer, Buddy Helm, recalls. “It was a very personal moment.
The kid seemed very genuine, totally in love with his dad. It was like
wanting to connect. He didn’t know anything personally about Tim but was
there ready to do it.” The same seemed to be true of Tim; after years
of distance from his son, he seemed to feel it was time to re-cement
whatever bond existed between them.
Shortly after, before the second set began, Judy, Tim’s new partner,
asked Mary if it would be acceptable for Jeff to spend a few days at
their place: Tim would be leaving soon on tour, but had some free time.
It was the start of the Easter break, so Mary agreed. Next morning, she
packed Jeff’s clothes in a brown paper bag and drove him to Santa Monica
to spend his most extended period of time with his father.
Tim and Judy lived a few blocks from the beach. As Jeff remembered
it, the following five days - the first week of April 1975 - were
largely uneventful. “Easter vacation came around,” he wrote in 1990. “I
went over for a week or so, we made small talk at dinner, watched cable
TV, he bought me a model airplane on one of our 'outings’ … Nothing
much but it was kind of memorable.” Three years later, he recalled it
with much more bitterness: “He was working in his room, so I didn’t even
get to talk to him. And that was it.”
Mary recalls Jeff telling her that he would dash into Tim’s room
every morning and bounce on the bed. At the end of his stay, Tim and
Judy put Jeff on a bus out of Santa Monica, and Mary picked him up at
the bus station in Fullerton. When Jeff stepped off, she noticed he was
clutching a book of matches. On it, Tim had written his phone number.
By his teens, Jeff was exhibiting impressive musical skills, as
another school band member, drummer Paul Derech, discovered when he
visited Jeff in the Guibert home in early 1982. Sitting on his bed, Jeff
played songs from Al Di Meola’s Electric Rendezvous and the first album
by Asia. Even though Derech had to listen closely to Jeff’s guitar -
Mary couldn’t yet afford an amplifier for her son - his dexterity was so
apparent that Derech literally took a step back.
Once, Jeff pulled out a picture of Tim from his closet and softly
said, “I’ve spent a lot of time looking at that picture”, before moving
on to another topic. Derech, like other kids, sensed immediately that
his father was a sore point. Instead, they talked music. Although punk
and new wave were the predominant rock styles of the moment, Jeff had
little interest in them. He preferred music that challenged him and
transported him to imaginary worlds. In the late 70s and early 80s, that
music was prog (short for progressive) and art rock - bands such as
Yes, Genesis and Rush that revelled in complex structures,
science-fiction-themed lyrics and virtuosic, fleet- fingered guitar
parts that only a few teenagers could hope to master. In a friend’s
garage, Jeff and Derech soon began jamming on versions of Rush songs.
Jeff declined to sing, though; he told friends and family he wanted to
be a guitarist, plain and simple.
The reason, some felt, was because he didn’t want to be compared to
the musician father he barely knew. “He had exactly the same speaking
voice as Tim,” recalls Tamurlaine, the daughter of Herb Cohen, Tim’s
one-time manager. She befriended Jeff when he and Mary would visit the
Cohen family for dinner. (Cohen and Mary kept in touch after Tim and
Mary’s break-up.) During those meals, Jeff’s vocal and physical
resemblance to his father led Cohen often to mistakenly call Jeff “Tim”.
Jeff moved to New York City in 1990.
Often sporting his black Hendrix T-shirt, Jeff immediately took to
New York, hauling his guitar into the subway to play for change and
roaming the streets. “I talked to him right after he got to New York and
he was loving it,” recalls his friend Tony Marryatt, a fellow student
at Musicians Institute in Hollywood. “He said it was just like a Woody
Allen movie.” To support himself, he took a series of day jobs, from
working at an answering service (for actors such as F Murray Abraham and
Denzel Washington) to being an assistant at a Banana Republic clothes