Jeff Buckley was born in Southern California, where he grew up. His parents were Mary Guibert and Tim Buckley, but Jeff was raised primarily by his mother and stepfather, Ron Moorehead. He went by the name "Scotty Moorehead" for most of his early life.
A renowned guitarist and singer-songwriter, Jeff Buckley's career was cut short by his death in 1997. Though he wrote hundreds of songs, Buckley had recorded only one studio album at the time of his death.
Jeff moved often as a child, and only met his biological father Tim Buckley once, at the age of 8. He decided to take on the Buckley name after his father, also a musician, died of a drug overdose in 1975 at age 28. Jeff played his father's tribute concert, "Greetings from Tim Buckley," in Brooklyn in 1991. The concert was Jeff's way of paying last respects to his father, but it had the unintentional effect of kicking off Jeff Buckley's musical career.
He was trained in guitar and music theory in a year-long program at the Musicians' Institute in Hollywood, CA. Listening to and experimenting with Reggae, jazz, Metal and different genres of Rock music, Buckley honed his skills in California. Led Zeppelin, Robert Johnson and Nusrat Fati Ali Khan were major musical influences.
At the age of 23, after completing his music program in California, Buckley moved to New York City. Playing nightclubs in Greenwich Village, he slowly built up a fan base. The album Live at Sin-é documents his growing musical taste and improving technical talents during this time. Prior to moving to the east coast, Buckley had only sung back-up in his musical projects, but now he moved to performing solo and practicing singing publicly. Buckley played covers at first before moving to almost entirely his own growing catalog of songs.
His father's producer, Herb Cohen, offered to set Jeff Buckley up with his first studio record. Buckley flew back to Los Angeles for the deal, which became Babylon Dungeon Sessions. In October of 1992, Buckley signed with Columbia Records for a million-dollar, three-album deal.
Producer Andy Wallace, who had worked on the groundbreaking album Nevermind by Nirvana, was the next to collaborate with Buckley. Musicians Mick Grondahl on bass and drummer Matt Johnson joined Buckley to record what would be his most well-known album, Grace, in summer of 1993 in Woodstock, New York. After an extensive recording, rerecording, overdubbing and mixing process, the album was ready. Before launching Grace Buckley went on a national tour of smaller venues in support of Live at Sin-é, recorded at the Irish nightclub in New York City where he'd honed his craft.
The tour and follow-up of Grace
led to widespread recognition of Buckley's haunting songwriting talents. The songs "Last Goodbye," "Lilac Wine
," based on the version by Nina Simone, and the Leonard Cohen cover "Hallelujah
" became some of Buckley's most well-known tunes.
Buckley spent the last years of his life touring internationally, with concerts at major festivals such as Glastonbury. He produced more live albums and an incomplete album that was only available in bootleg form for several years, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk. The album was later completed posthumously by his record label.
On May 29, 1997, Buckley died suddenly and mysteriously when he disappeared while swimming with his bandmates in the Mississippi River. According to his roadie, Keith Foti, Buckley was singing "Whole Lotta Love
" by Led Zeppelin, just before he went missing. His body was discovered in the river on June 4, 1997, and the death was ruled an accidental drowning.