Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jeff Buckley: The Secret Chord

Gone too soon was the blossoming beauty of Jeff Buckley and all he wrote. Most of us know him as someone who famously sang Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah”, the rest of us know him as a critically-acclaimed talent that was about to take the music world in his hands and revolutionize it – until a tragic and fatal drowning incident in the Mississippi River took his life at the age of 30.


Buckley recorded his legendary first album Grace in 1994, a romantic outpour of wisdom and musical ingenuity that prompted Jimmy Page to call it his favourite album of the decade, and Bob Dylan to maintain that Buckley was “one of the great songwriters of the decade.” After wowing critics with his debut, Buckley and his team were in the process of writing and recording new material for Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk in Manhattan in 1997. Lacking inspiration and taking the advice of a friend, Buckley picked up and moved his band to Memphis, Tennessee where he rented a shack and tested the competence of his new live material at a dive bar underneath a parking garage. Buckley, still unsatisfied, sent his band back to New York while he stayed behind to mold the new material. The night his band returned on May 29, 1997, the group went for a dip in Memphis’ Wolf River Harbor, under no influence, only excited to begin re-recording that night. Buckley was on top of the world, singing and floating in the water - but with the pass of a tugboat and many turned heads, his bandmates looked back to see he had vanished under the rippling waves. His lifeless body was recovered five days later.

A legend passed that day, but his legacy lives on in notes, chords, harmonies and poetry like this. I was recently introduced to the poetry reading of one of Buckley’s unreleased songs “New Year’s Prayer”. The song is wonderful, but the reading of it - Buckley’s soft voice and his unparalleled vivid imagery – is something profound to be celebrated. Read and listen, and honour the genius of Mr. Buckley:

You, my love, are allowed to forget
About the Christmas you just spent stressed out in your parents house.

You, my love, are allowed to shed
The weight of all the years before, like bad disco clothes,
Save them for a night of dancing, stoned with your lover.

You, my love, are allowed to let yourself drown
Every night in bottomless wild and naked symbolic dreams.

You, my love, in sleep can unlock
Your youth and your most terrifying magic and dreamings for the courageous.

You, my love, are allowed to grab my guitar
And sing me idiot love songs if you've lost your ability to speak.
Keep it down to two minutes.

You, my love, are allowed to rot and to die
And then live again, more alive and incandescent than before.

You, my love, are allowed to beat the shit out of your television.
Choke it's thoughts and corrupt its mind.
Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill the motherfucker before the song of zombiefied pain and panic and malaise and it's narrow right-winged vision and it's cheap commercial gang rape becomes the white noise of the world.
Turn about is fair play.

You, my love, are allowed to forgive and love your television.

You, my love, are allowed to speak in kisses to those around you and those up in heaven.

You, my love, are allowed to show your babies how to dance full bodied, starry eyed, audacious, supernatural and glorified.

You, my love, are allowed to suck in every single endeavor.

You, my love, are allowed to be soaked like a lovers' blanket in the New York summertime with the wonder of your own special gift.

You, my love, are allowed to receive praise.

You, my love, are allowed to have time.

You, my love, are allowed to understand.

You, my love, are allowed to love.

Woman disobey,
When little men believe,

That you, my love, are Rebellion.

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