Tim Buckley

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Tim Buckley
Buckley performing at the Fillmore East in 1968
Background information
Birth nameTimothy Charles Buckley III
Born(1947-02-14)February 14, 1947
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedJune 29, 1975(1975-06-29) (aged 28)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1966–1975
Website timbuckley.net

Timothy Charles Buckley III (February 14, 1947 – June 29, 1975) was an American musician. He began his career based in folk rock, but subsequently experimented with genres such as psychedelia, jazz, the avant-garde, and funk as well as unconventional vocal stylings. His commercial peak came with the 1969 album Happy Sad , reaching No. 81 on the charts, while his experimental 1970 album Starsailor went on to become a cult favorite. [4] The latter contained his best known song, "Song to the Siren." Buckley died at the age of 28 from a heroin and morphine overdose, leaving behind sons Taylor and Jeff.


Early life and career

Tim Buckley was born in Washington, D.C., on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1947, to Elaine (née Scalia), an Italian American, and Timothy Charles Buckley Jr., a decorated World War II veteran and son of Irish immigrants from Cork. [5] He spent his early childhood in Amsterdam, New York, an industrial city about 40 miles (64 km) northwest of Albany. At five years old, Buckley began listening to his mother's progressive jazz recordings, particularly Miles Davis.

Buckley's musical life began after his family moved to Bell Gardens in southern California in 1956. His grandmother introduced him to the work of Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday, his mother to Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland and his father to the country music of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. [6] When the folk music revolution came around in the early 1960s, Buckley taught himself the banjo at age 13, and with several friends formed a folk group inspired by The Kingston Trio that played local high school events. [7]

During high school, Buckley was elected to class offices, played on the baseball team and quarterbacked the football team. [8] During a football game, he broke two fingers on his left hand, permanently damaging them. He said that the injury prevented him from playing barre chords. This disability may have led to his use of extended chords, many of which don't require barres. [9]

Buckley attended Loara High School in Anaheim, California. [10] He cut classes regularly and quit football, focusing most of his attention on music. He befriended Larry Beckett, his future lyricist, and Jim Fielder, a bass player with whom he formed two musical groups, the Bohemians, who initially played popular music, [11] and the Harlequin 3, a folk group which regularly incorporated spoken word and beat poetry into their gigs. [6]

Buckley and lyricist/friend Beckett wrote dozens of songs, some that appeared on Tim's debut album, Tim Buckley. "Buzzin' Fly" was written during this period and was featured on Happy Sad , his 1969 LP. [8]

Buckley's college career at Fullerton College lasted two weeks in 1965. [7] [8] After dropping out of college, Buckley dedicated himself fully to music and playing L.A. folk clubs. During the summer of 1965, he played regularly at a club co-founded by Dan Gordon. He played Orange County coffeehouses such as the White Room in Buena Park and the Monday-night hootenannies at the Los Angeles Troubadour. [12] That year, Cheetah magazine deemed Buckley one of "The Orange County Three", along with Steve Noonan and Jackson Browne. [6]

In February 1966, following a gig at It's Boss, the Mothers of Invention's drummer Jimmy Carl Black recommended Buckley to the Mothers' manager, Herb Cohen. Cohen saw potential in Tim [7] and landed him an extended gig at the Night Owl Cafe in Greenwich Village at West 3rd and MacDougal. Buckley's girlfriend, Jainie Goldstein, drove him to New York. [13] While living in the Bowery with Jainie, Buckley ran into Lee Underwood and asked him to play guitar for him. The two became lifelong friends and collaborators. [14]

Under Cohen's management, Buckley recorded a six-song demo acetate disc which he sent to Elektra records owner Jac Holzman, [6] [11] who offered him a recording contract. [7]

Folk rock

In August 1966, Buckley recorded his self-titled debut album in three days in Los Angeles. He was often unhappy with his albums after they were recorded and described his debut album as "like Disneyland". [6] The record featured Buckley and a band of Underwood and Orange County friends. Underwood's mix of jazz and country improvisation on a Telecaster guitar became a distinctive part of Buckley's early sound. Jac Holzman and Paul Rothchild's production and Jack Nitzsche's string arrangements cemented the record's mid-'60s sound.

The album's folk-rock style was typical of the time, although many people, including Underwood, felt the strings by Nitzsche "did not enhance its musical quality." [13] Critics took note of Buckley's distinctive voice and tuneful compositions. [7]

Underwood considered the record to be "a first effort, naive, stiff, quaky and innocent [but] a ticket into the marketplace". [9] Holzman expressed similar sentiments and thought Buckley wasn't comfortable in his own musical skin. [7] Larry Beckett suggested the band's desire to please audiences held it back. [11]

Elektra released two singles promoting the debut album, "Wings" with "Grief in My Soul" as the B-side, and "Aren't You the Girl"/"Strange Street Affair Under Blue." Buckley followed with "Once Upon a Time" and "Lady Give Me Your Key", which were not well regarded but showed potential. [15] Elektra decided not to release the songs as singles, and the songs remained in Elektra's record vaults. Rhino Records was unable to find "Lady Give Me Your Key" to include on its Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology , [11] but the song was the title track on Light in the Attic Records' 2017 collection of the previously unissued 1967 acoustic sessions. "Once Upon A Time" surfaced on Rhino's Where The Action Is 1965–68 Los Angeles anthology in 2009.

Goodbye and Hello , released in 1967, featured late 1960s-style poetry and songs in different timings, and was an ambitious release for the 20-year-old Buckley. [6] [16] Reflecting the confidence Elektra had in Buckley and group, they were given free rein on the content of the album. [15] Beckett continued as lyricist and the album consisted of Buckley originals and Beckett–Buckley collaborations. Critics noted the improved lyrical and melodic qualities of Buckley's music. [17] Buckley's voice had developed since his last release and the press appreciated both his lower register and falsetto in equal measure. [16]

Middle period

During 1969, Buckley began to write and record material for three albums, Blue Afternoon , Lorca , and Starsailor . Inspired by the singing of avant-garde musician Cathy Berberian, he integrated the ideas of composers such as Luciano Berio and Iannis Xenakis in an avant-garde rock genre. Buckley selected eight songs for Blue Afternoon , an album similar to Happy Sad in style. [22] In a 1977 article for DownBeat magazine, Lee Underwood wrote that Buckley's heart was not in Blue Afternoon and that the album was a perfunctory response to please his business partners. [23]

While Buckley's music never sold well, his following releases did indeed chart. Lorca alienated his folk base, while Blue Afternoon was criticized as boring and tepid, and "[not] even good sulking music", although it has been re-evaluated over the years. [24] Blue Afternoon was Buckley's last album to chart on Billboard , reaching No. 192. Following the albums, Buckley began to focus on what he felt to be his masterpiece, Starsailor.

Starsailor contained free jazz textures under Buckley's most extreme vocal performance, ranging from high shrieks to deep, soulful baritone. This personal album included the more accessible "Song to the Siren", a song which has since been covered by This Mortal Coil, Robert Plant, John Frusciante, Bryan Ferry and Brendan Perry. The album was a critical and commercial failure.

Unable to produce his music and almost broke, Buckley turned to alcohol and drug binges. He considered acting and completed an unreleased low-budget film entitled Why? (1971). [25] The film was an experimental use of the new medium video tape and was commissioned by Technicolor. [6]

"Sex funk" period

In 1970, Buckley disbanded his Starsailor ensemble and assembled a new funk band. He cut three albums, Greetings from L.A. , Sefronia and Look at the Fool . Buckley had alienated much of his hippie fan base with his previous two albums, and his sexually frank lyrics ("whip me, spank me") prevented the songs from receiving airplay, although he retained a cult following.

In 1975, Buckley engaged the press regarding a live album comeback. He began performing revamped versions of material drawn from his career, except Starsailor and Lorca, in response to his audience, which he had spurned in the past.


On June 28, 1975, Buckley completed a short tour with a show in Dallas, playing to a sold-out crowd of 1,800 people. [6] He celebrated the end of the tour with a weekend of drinking with his band and friends. On the night of June 29, he accompanied longtime friend Richard Keeling to his house. At some point, Keeling produced a bag of heroin, [9] some of which Buckley snorted.

Buckley's friends took him home and, seeing his inebriated state, his wife Judy laid him on the living-room floor and questioned his friends as to what had happened. [9] She moved Buckley into bed. When she checked on him later, she found that he was not breathing and had turned blue. Attempts by friends and paramedics to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead on arrival. [6]

The coroner's report stated that Buckley died at 9:42 p.m. on June 29, 1975, from "acute heroin/morphine and ethanol intoxication due to inhalation and ingestion of overdose". [26]


Buckley's tour manager, Bob Duffy, said Buckley's death was not expected, but "was like watching a movie, and that was its natural ending." [6]

Other friends saw his passing as predictable, if not inevitable. Beckett recalled how Buckley took chances with his life, including dangerous driving, drinking alcohol, taking pills and heroin.

Given the circumstances of his death, police charged Keeling with murder and distribution of heroin. [27] At his hearing on August 14, 1975, Keeling pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter [27] [28] and, after failing to complete community service, was sentenced to 120 days in jail and four years' probation. [29]

Buckley died in debt, owning only a guitar and an amplifier. [30] About 200 friends and family attended his funeral at the Wilshire Funeral Home in Santa Monica, including manager Herb Cohen and Lee Underwood. His 8-year-old son, Jeff, had met his father only once, and was not invited to the funeral. [31] Jeff Buckley said not being invited to his father's funeral "gnawed" at him, and prompted him to pay his respects by performing "I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain" in 1991 at a memorial tribute to Buckley in Brooklyn. [32]

Personal life

During French class in 1964, Buckley met Mary Guibert. Their relationship inspired some of Buckley's music, and provided him time away from his turbulent home life. His father suffered a head injury during the war which, along with a severe work-related injury, was said to have affected his mental balance. [13] Buckley and Guibert married on October 25, 1965. [8] The marriage was tumultuous and when Guibert became pregnant, Buckley found himself neither willing nor able to cope with marriage and fatherhood. The couple divorced in October 1966, about a month before their son, Jeff Buckley, was born. [6] [8] Jeff later said about his father, "He left my mother when I was six months old ... So I never really knew him at all. We were born with the same parts but when I sing it's me. This is my own time and if people expect me to work the same things for them as he did, they're going to be disappointed." [33]

In April 1970, Buckley married Judy Brejot Sutcliffe in Santa Monica, and adopted her son, Taylor Keith Sutcliffe.


Studio albums

Live albums


Other releases

Compilation appearances


Tribute albums

References and notes

  1. David Fudger; Peter Silverton (1982). The Rock Diary 1983. Proteus Books. p. 2. ISBN   9780862760205.
  2. 1 2 3 Aston, Martin (November 17, 2011). "Song to the Siren's irresistible tang". The Guardian. Retrieved May 10, 2023.
  3. Hudson, Alex. "Tim Buckley's Self-Titled Debut to Get Expanded Reissue". Exclaim!. Retrieved May 10, 2023.
  4. 1 2 Unterberger, Richie. Artist Biography by Richie Unterberger at AllMusic. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  5. Browne, David (2001). Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. HarperEntertainment. p. 16. ISBN   0-380-80624-X.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Aston, Martin. "The High". Archived from the original on October 22, 2008. Retrieved May 4, 2008.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 ""Tim Buckley Biography" by Simon Glickman at enotes.com" . Retrieved May 19, 2008.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 ""Tim Buckley Chronology 1947–97" by Robert Niemi". Timbuckley.net. Retrieved May 19, 2008.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Tim Buckley Biography by Lee Underwood". Archived from the original on January 5, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2008.
  10. "The Man that Got Away by Dave Peschek". Archived from the original on April 22, 2008. Retrieved June 3, 2008.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Ben Edmonds (June 2000). "Dreamy, Driven and Dangerous". Mojo . Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
  12. Musician magazine article by Scott Isler, The Tim Buckley Archives.
  13. 1 2 3 Blue Melody, Lee Underwood, Tim Buckley Biography
  14. Chadbourne, Eugene. "Lee Underwood". AllMusic. Retrieved April 30, 2023.
  15. 1 2 3 "Larry Beckett Interview: April 3, 1999". Richieunterberger.com. Retrieved May 26, 2008.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 Isler, Scott. "Goodbye and Hello". Musician. Archived from the original on May 18, 2008. Retrieved June 20, 2008.
  17. 1 2 Hopkins, Jerry. "And God Bless Tim Buckley Too". Archived from the original on May 21, 2008. Retrieved June 20, 2008.
  18. Hoster, Jay. "Tim Buckley: "An incredibly thin wire – Dylan thin"". The Haverford News. Archived from the original on April 22, 2008. Retrieved June 3, 2008 via timbuckley.net.
  19. Sander, Ellen. "The Growing Mystique of Tim Buckley". Hit Parader . Archived from the original on May 19, 2008. Retrieved June 20, 2008 via timbuckley.net.
  20. Robert Niemi. "Tim Buckley – A Chronology, 1967–1968". timbuckley.net. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
  21. Unterberger, Richie. "Gypsy Woman by Tim Buckley – Track Info". AllMusic . Retrieved May 2, 2023.
  22. "Interview with Lee Underwood". Leeunderwood.net. Retrieved April 29, 2008.
  23. "Starsailor Interview by Lee Underwood". Leeunderwood.net. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  24. Chilton, Martin (November 24, 2021). "Blue Afternoon: A New Creative Dawn for Tim Buckley". Thisisdig.com. Retrieved April 7, 2023.
  25. Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine : "Tim Buckley in a movie 'Why' (rare video)". YouTube. October 29, 2014. Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  26. Sims, Judith (August 14, 1975). "Tim Buckley Dead at 28". Rolling Stone . Archived from the original on April 13, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
  27. 1 2 "Suspect Arraigned in Death of Singer". The New York Times . July 9, 1975. Archived from the original on May 19, 2008. Retrieved July 3, 2008.
  28. "Stude Gets Probation in Death of Singer Buckley". Los Angeles Times . March 9, 1976. Archived from the original on May 18, 2008. Retrieved June 3, 2008.
  29. "Penal Aftermath of Tim Buckley's Death". Los Angeles Times . March 23, 1976. Archived from the original on May 19, 2008. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  30. "Tim Buckley: Chronicle of a Starsailor". Timbuckley.com. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
  31. Browne, David (September 24, 1993). "The Unmade Star". The New York Times . Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved April 30, 2023 via Jeffbuckley.com.
  32. Rogers, Ray (May 28, 2013). "New Again: Jeff Buckley". Interview . Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  33. Kemp, Sam (April 26, 2022). "When Jeff Buckley Played His Father's Music for the First Time". Far Out Magazine . Retrieved April 30, 2022.
  34. "Tim Buckley Previously Unreleased Tracks Collected on New Album: Listen". Pitchfork.com. August 31, 2016. Retrieved August 17, 2021.

Related Research Articles

<i>Starsailor</i> (album) 1970 studio album by Tim Buckley

Starsailor is the sixth studio album by Tim Buckley, released on Herb Cohen's Straight Records label in November 1970. Starsailor marks Buckley's full embrace of avant-garde and jazz-rock styles into his music. Although it alienated elements of his fanbase upon release, it also contains his best known song, "Song to the Siren", which was written much earlier than the rest of the material. Bunk Gardner, a former member of the Mothers of Invention, joined Buckley's backing band to record the album. Also, Buckley began working again with lyricist Larry Beckett, after a three-album hiatus.

<i>Blue Afternoon</i> 1969 studio album by Tim Buckley

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<i>Lorca</i> (album) 1970 studio album by Tim Buckley

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Works in Progress is a compilation album by Tim Buckley. The album is a collection of studio recordings dating from early and mid-1968 in addition to one recording dating from a recording session in 1967. The material on this album consists of songs Buckley was working on for a third album, the at the time unnamed album that would become Happy Sad. The majority of the songs from the studio recording sessions were lost or erased but some songs were preserved on a compilation reel at the studio. The large part of these recordings were not used on Happy Sad and appear only on this compilation. Some of the songs here evolved into another song: "Danang" and "Ashbury Park" later came to form two movements of the three-part song "Love From Room 108 At The Islander " that would appear on the final version of Buckley's third album.

<i>Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology</i> 2001 greatest hits album by Tim Buckley

Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology is a compilation album by Tim Buckley. The two cds give an overview of Tim Buckley's career. The compilation contains material from the many phases of Buckley's career, and includes a previously unreleased version of "Song to the Siren", as performed in 1968 on The Monkees. The photo used for the cover art was taken by Linda Eastman, more commonly known as Linda McCartney.

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Dream Letter: Live in London 1968 is a live album by Tim Buckley. The album was recorded in Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, England on October 7, 1968. Due to a lack of available funds Buckley was unable to tour with regular bass player John Miller and conga player Carter "C.C." Collins. The concert instead features bassist Danny Thompson, guitarist Lee Underwood and vibraphone player David Friedman.

<i>Once I Was</i> 1999 compilation album by Tim Buckley

Once I Was is a compilation album by Tim Buckley. The album features the Peel sessions recorded 1 April 1968, two tracks, "Honeyman" and "Dolphins", from a BBC broadcast of The Old Grey Whistle Test on 21 May 21 1974 and finally "I Don't Need It to Rain" taken from the 12 October 1968 live show in Copenhagen. This collection features the same track listing as the Morning Glory compilation, with the sole difference being the inclusion "I Don't Need It to Rain". Buckley and his band are accompanied by famed Danish jazz double bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on this track due to the unavailability of Buckley's regular bassist for the 1968 European tour.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Larry Beckett</span> American poet

Larry Beckett is an American poet, songwriter, musician, and literary critic. As a songwriter and music arranger, Beckett collaborated with Tim Buckley in the late 1960s and early 1970s on several songs and albums, including the critically acclaimed "Song to the Siren" which has been recorded by many artists, from This Mortal Coil to Robert Plant. He has also collaborated with British group The Long Lost Band, and local Portland indie band Eyelids.

<i>Honeyman: Live 1973</i> 1995 live album by Tim Buckley

Honeyman: Live 1973 is a live album by rock artist Tim Buckley. The album was recorded as a live radio broadcast for radio station WLIR in New York City, United States on November 27, 1973.

<i>The Dream Belongs to Me: Rare and Unreleased 1968–1973</i> 2001 compilation album by Tim Buckley

The Dream Belongs to Me: Rare and Unreleased 1968 – 1973 is a compilation album by Tim Buckley. The album consists of three demo sessions, two recorded in 1968 and the other in 1973.

<i>Thin Wires in the Voice</i> 1999 EP by Tim Buckley

Thin Wires In The Voice is a 120-page booklet written by Italian writer Luca Ferrari with a 3 track EP by Tim Buckley. The EP is a compilation of "Song to the Siren", featuring just Buckley's guitar and voice, recorded for the TV show The Monkees and two live recordings taken from a 1968 Danish radio broadcast. This earlier version of Starsailor track "Song to the Siren" is more folk-oriented and can also be found on Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology. The two live recordings are also found on Buckley's 1968 live album Copenhagen Tapes. The booklet is dual language appraisal of Tim Buckley in Italian and English. It also contains selected lyrics and poetry.

<i>Peel Sessions</i> (Tim Buckley album) 1991 live album by Tim Buckley

Peel Sessions is a live album by Tim Buckley. It was recorded in studio 1 at 201 Piccadilly London, UK on 1 April 1968, as a session recording for BBC radio DJ John Peel. The session was subsequently broadcast six days later on 7 April 7, 1968. The session consists of folk-oriented songs from Buckley's Goodbye and Hello - Blue Afternoon period recorded in a sparse manner with only Tim's vocals, two guitars and percussion. Peel would later comment on this session as one that "defines essential music".

<i>The Late Great Tim Buckley</i> 1978 compilation album by Tim Buckley

The Late Great Tim Buckley is a compilation LP by Tim Buckley. The album consists of recordings from five of Buckley's studio albums: Tim Buckley, Goodbye and Hello, Happy Sad, Greetings from L.A. and Sefronia. The compilation was the first Buckley LP to be released posthumously and was only released in Australia. It would be another 5 years until the next release, The Best of Tim Buckley, highlighting the decline of Buckley's popularity in the latter stages of his career before his death. The compilation provides a sparse overview of Buckley's career, omitting music from Lorca, Blue Afternoon and Starsailor and focusing instead on the more commercial periods of Buckley's recording years. The album is currently out of print.

<i>The Best of Tim Buckley</i>

The Best of Tim Buckley is a compilation LP by Tim Buckley. It presents Buckley as a folk artist with songs written between 1966 and 1970. The album features material from the studio albums Tim Buckley, Goodbye and Hello, Happy Sad and Blue Afternoon, in addition to "Song to the Siren" from his avant garde album Starsailor. This was the first new release, outside of Australia after Buckley's death. The album provides an overview of Buckley's folk beginnings, excluding material from his later albums.

"Song to the Siren" is a song written by Tim Buckley to a poem by his writing partner Larry Beckett, released by Buckley on his 1970 album Starsailor. It was also later released on Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology, the album featuring a performance of the song taken from the final episode of The Monkees TV show which aired on March 25, 1968.

<i>Dream Brother: The Songs of Tim and Jeff Buckley</i> 2006 studio album by Various Artists

Dream Brother: The Songs of Tim and Jeff Buckley is a studio album performed by various artists in tribute to 1960s musician Tim Buckley, and his son, also a musician, Jeff Buckley. Both father and son died prematurely, Tim Buckley of an overdose and Jeff Buckley in a drowning accident.

Lee Underwood is an American musician and journalist who played lead guitar with Tim Buckley for most of Buckley's career.