Buckley Dead at 28; Murder Charged
Angeles---Singer/songwriter Tim Buckley died at the Santa Monica Hospital emergency
room at 9:42 p.m. on June 29th. At first police suspected that Buckley, 28, had
suffered a heart attack, but the county coroner's office later ruled that death
was due to a heroin/morphine overdose coupled with alcohol.
days later, Richard Keeling, a 30-year-old research assistant in the music department
at UCLA, was arraigned on charges of second degree murder. Keeling allegedly furnished
Buckley with the drugs that caused his death; under California law, this constitutes
grounds for a murder indictment.
Detective Tom Petroski of the Santa Monica Police Department said that the case
had nearly been closed before Keeling was linked to it by statements he'd made
shortly after Buckley's death. Buckley supposedly visited the Ph.D. student's
apartment with his wife shortly before he returned to his home and collapsed.
said that Keeling had helped Buckley home and put him into bed after the singer
had fallen to the floor. They added that two hours later Buckley's wife became
suspicious about his erratic breathing and called for medical assistance. He was
then taken to the hospital, where he died shortly thereafter.
was reputedly a hard drug user several years ago, but the coroner's report showed
no indication of recent sustained use of narcotics. No needle marks were found,
and L.A. insiders are speculating that he may have snorted the heroin thinking
that it was cocaine.
had been without a label for the past few months, but Arista and Asylum had expressed
interest in signing him. His new albums--Look at the Fool, Sefronia and Greetings
from L.A.--contained a number of successful straight-ahead rock & roll songs,
a departure from the more plaintive tunes heard on mid-Sixties albums like Tim
Buckley and Goodbye and Hello.
likened to such L.A. song poets as Jackson Browne and gifted with an impressive,
multi-octave voice, Buckley never quite achieved real stardom. He first won attention
as a sensitive, almost fragile, writer and singer, but during the late Sixties
he began to explore unstructured jazz vocals, sometimes singing onomatopoetically
onstage for up to an hour.
followers often questioned Buckley's later jazz and rock explorations, but keyboard
player John Herron, who recently backed him onstage, said that "the timing
could not have been worse. He was at a point where he was going to make the big
move. Even though he never got the recognition, he was head and shoulders above
a lot of big names in the business."
were signs that such recognition was forthcoming; Buckley had played an 1800 capacity
show at Dallas's Electric Ballroom the night before his death.
Fielder, the former Blood, Sweat and Tears bassist who played on Look at the Fool,
said that Buckley had "looked okay" when encountered in a San Fernando
Valley club just three weeks before his death. "At the time of Look at the
Fool," Fielder added, surprise evident in his voice, "Tim was great,
in real good shape. It was one of the healthiest times of his life."
had recently been involved in a UCLA research project as an apprentice in a program
working with obscure instruments. He was writing a screenplay and a novel, and
was being seriously considered by director Hal Ashby for the role of Woody Guthrie
in the film Bound for Glory.
the time of his death, Buckley seemed to be in excellent spirits. Frankie Nemko,
a Los Angeles writer who'd interviewed Buckley in late June, said that he "was
so excited about his career, so up it was lovely." And Jackie McGuire, a
friend of Buckley's wife Judy who is helping to organize a benefit/tribute tentatively
scheduled for Burbank's Starlight Bowl on August 11th, echoed that Buckley's frame
of mind had been "very up."
addition to his wife, Buckley is survived by Taylor, his 12-year-old son from
a previous marriage.