The Tim Buckley Archives


Dream Brother:
The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley

by David Browne

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 ten 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 row.

Jeff seemed enraptured, bouncing in his seat to the rhythms of Tim's twelve-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 his 20s.

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 fifteen 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.

© 2001 Browne/HarperEntertainment

When Jeff Buckley drowned at the age of thirty in 1997, he not only left behind a legacy of brilliant music -- he brought back haunting memories of his father, '60s troubadour Tim Buckley, a gifted musician who barely knew his son and who himself died at twenty-eight. Both father and son made transcendent music that mixed rock, jazz, and folk; both amassed a cadre of obsessive, adoring fans.

This absorbing dual biography -- based on interviews with more than one hundred friends, family members, and business associates as well as access to journals and unreleased recordings -- tells for the first time the intriguing, often heartbreaking story of these two musicians.

It offers a new understanding of the Buckleys' parallel lives -- and tragedies -- while exploring the changing music business between the '60s and the '90s. Finally, it tells the story of a father and son, two complex, enigmatic men who died searching for themselves and each other.

Publisher: Harper Entertainment; (January 23, 2001) Hardcover: 384 pages

© 2001 Browne/HarperEntertainment

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