The Tim Buckley Archives



Daily Telegraph (Australia)

Cliched end for talented music man Tim Buckley

by Troy Lennon

In June 1975, after having just played to a sold-out crowd in Dallas on the last show of a successful tour, musician Tim Buckley went home to Los Angeles and invited himself to his friend Richard Keeling’s place to celebrate. Buckley had already been drinking heavily but when Keeling produced a bag of heroin, the singer snorted some but had a bad reaction to the drug.

Friends took him home and his partner Judy put him to bed. Concerned at his erratic breathing, she later found that he wasn’t breathing at all. Despite attempts to revive him by friends and an ambulance crew, he was pronounced dead on arrival at Santa Monica hospital. It seemed like the cliche end of a rock star, dying from a drug overdose, leaving debts and unreleased material in his wake. But at least one cliche he had avoided was joining the “27 Club” — he was only 28 at the time.

Although never a superstar while alive, his reputation has grown over the years and most of his nine studio albums are considered works of art by other musicians. They also speak of enormous potential that was perhaps unrealised. If it hadn’t been for his untimely early demise, Buckley would have turned 70 today.

Timothy Charles Buckley was born on Valentine’s Day, 1947, in Amsterdam, New York, the son of Elaine, an Italian American, and Timothy Buckley II, a highly awarded World War II veteran. His earliest exposure to music was from his mother who listened to some of the greats of progressive jazz, including Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and was also a fan of some of the great voices of the age such as Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.

The family moved to California in 1956 and Buckley discovered a talent for singing. At the age of 13 he taught himself banjo and played in a country music band before forming his own folk music band with schoolmates. An accident playing football left him with injured fingers that limited his ability to play guitar, but he found ways around it, which contributed to his unique playing style.

In a high school French class in 1965 he met Mary Guibert, who became the inspiration behind some of his early songs. Tim later went to Fullerton Junior College, but dropped out after two months to concentrate on his music, working at a restaurant by day and playing gigs at night. After Mary discovered she was pregnant, the two married in October 1965, much to his father’s annoyance. He told them the marriage wouldn’t last six months. Shortly after the wedding Mary discovered that she wasn’t pregnant, but the marriage soon began to unravel regardless.

At the beginning of 1966 Buckley and his band were taken under the wing of Herb Cohen, manager of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, who got Buckley better gigs and a recording contract. He released his debut self-titled album in August 1966. But when Mary really became pregnant the pressure of becoming a father was too much for Buckley, he left home, the couple divorced in October and in November 1966 she gave birth to his son Jeff.

His sound evolved over the course of several albums including Goodbye and Hello in 1967, Happy Sad (1969), Lorca and Starsailor (both in 1970), and Greetings From LA (1972). Although his albums were highly regarded (he was, however, his own worst critic and thought little of his early albums) he never had a lot of commercial success during his life.

Even after an appearance on the last episode of popular TV series The Monkees set him up as a potential teen idol, he rejected that kind of stardom and changed musical direction moving from his folk rock origins to more jazz and funk alienating his folk admirers. A funk and soul-influenced period followed but his albums were commercial flops.

In 1975 he signalled a return to some of his more popular material at concerts, but after his sellout show in Dallas his life was cut short. His albums would gain a cult following and interest was revived when his son Jeff began making a name for himself in the early ’90s. But just as Jeff’s star was on the rise in 1997 he drowned in the Mississippi after taking a spontaneous swim fully clothed. He was only 30.

Both Tim and Jeff, once considered musician’s musicians are now revered by a growing fanbase, especially after the 2012 film Greetings From Tim Buckley, which starred Penn Badgley as Jeff and Ben Rosenfield as Tim.

© 2017 Lennon/Daily Telegraph


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