Road-tripping Discoveries: Jeff Buckley…The Last Goodbye
2013 has so far rocked and rolled its way into autumn with all of the light and the dark of life being lived. Betwixt it all, there came significant birthday milestones for both myself and the better half. With that, the excuse to embark on some much-needed escapism in the form of three weeks of celebratory vacation time that took us from the auld hometown of Dublin, Ireland and encompassed Chicago, Illinois and Orlando, Florida, with an exciting road trip in between that covered Nashville, Memphis and Franklin, Tennessee, and Tupelo, Mississippi. So many highlights, too many to mention, but some too good not to share!
Starting with a poignant reminder of the fragility of life…
While strolling close to the Beale Street Landing, along the banks of the Wolf River in Memphis, we came across a bench, bearing a small plaque inscribed with a tribute to singer and songwriter, Jeff Buckley.
Posthumously famous for his haunting cover of the Leonard Cohen classic, Hallelujah, Buckley moved to Memphis in 1997 to work on his album, My Sweetheart the Drunk. During this time, he also played weekly shows at ‘Barristers’, a downtown bar, located beneath a parking garage off Jefferson Avenue. On the evening of May, 29th, while waiting for his band to arrive from New York to work on his recordings, Jeff, having swam there several times before, dived, fully clothed, into the Wolf River for a spontaneous swim.
The River, which enters the Mississippi near the northern end of Mud Island, north of downtown Memphis, is also the route for many tugboats. Jeff tragically drowned, his body found six days later, having been pulled under the wake of such a tug vessel.
Despite some rumours of depression and suicidal tendencies, the subsequent autopsy showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in Jeff’s system and his death was ruled as an accidental drowning.
His passing inspired musical tributes from many of his contemporaries, including Chris Cornell’s Wave Goodbye, PJ Harvey’s Memphis. Rufus Wainwright’s Memphis Skyline, and Aimee Mann’s Just Like Anyone. He was just 30 years of age.
Hope he’s resting in peace there, on his very own bench, on the Riverbank…
Jeff Buckley - Mojo Pin (Live at Glastonbury, 1995)
"Uh precious precious silver and gold
And pearls in oyster’s flesh
Drop down we two to serve and pray to love
Born again from the rhythm
Screaming down from heaven
Ageless, ageless and I’m there in your arms”