Jeff Buckley & The Chaos We've Become (Pt. 2)

There is a box in my closet affectionately labelled “Sentimental”. Over the years, it's become a resting space for old letters, post cards, photographs and anything else that I felt too attached to throw away. It's a place where my memories go to ferment, to age like a fine wine and wait to be re-discovered years later. I have trouble letting go of things.

Dream Brother
In the summer of 2001, I was having trouble letting go of Jeff Buckley. I had been introduced to his music by a first love not less than a year earlier. (read PT 1. here) The impact was sizemic. I became absorbed in Jeff's mythology as much as in his music. Sometimes when we lose folks at a young age their story takes on extra weight. They cease to be mere mortals and loom large in our mind as deities. It is a cruel twist of fate to fall in love with something only to simultaneously learn of it's tragic passing. My experience with Jeff Buckley has always been bittersweet.

In my quest for all things Buckley, I came across the book Dream Brother by David Browne. In it Browne weaves a grimm-like fairytale of both the life and death of Jeff and his father Tim Buckley. While the historical accuracy of Browne's book is debatable, it proved to be a treasure map of sorts, filling in the details of Jeff's final days in Memphis. For an obsessed fan, it was biblical. But, it raised as many questions as it did provide answers.

Pointing the way on the plains of Illinois
Shortly after reading Browne's book, I serendipidously crossed paths with the band Maggie, Pierce and EJ, who's lead singer had befriended Jeff. It felt like a reuinion of sorts. Enraptured by her stories, I devoured any information she could give that would fill in the missing pieces of his legend. But, the experience was solemn. For me it was a myth, but for Maggie it was a real person she was grieving. There was sadness in her eyes when she talked about him and very real pain in her voice. She gave me the album For that her band wrote about and dedicated to Jeff in their own effort to come to terms with his passing. I often find that the way to de-mystify things is to experience them first-hand, so when Maggie invited me to visit her on tour in Memphis, I jumped at the chance.

Packing up my rusted out Honda, I embarked on a 10 hour solo journey from Michigan, through the endless plains of Illinois, down to the Mississippi delta in the middle of a July heat-wave. It was equal parts Kerouac and crazy. The summer humidity of the southern delta was something I wasn't prepared for. Suffocating and oppressive, it left me in a shamanic-like trance. I arrived to a giant bronze statue of Elvis, rested at his feet and chuckled to myself thinking about how many folks had probably made a similar pilgrammage to see “The King”.

The King
Trusty “Dream Brother bible” in hand, I first retraced the steps to the house Jeff stayed at while recovering from the pressures of New York and burgeoning stardom. What I found was a humble looking white one-story on North Rembert St. flanked by pink flowering bushes. Although, this was my Graceland, I stopped short of knocking on the door. There were no guided tours here, no jungle rooms or peanutbutter & banana sandwiches. Just a small house that looked eerily similar to the one I was renting at the time in Kalamazoo. I took a picture for posterity and moved on.

Jeff's house on North Rembert st.

As I headed towards the Wolf River, I imagined what kind of folks might be living there now. Did they know who had walked the halls before them? Could they hear faint whispers of “New Year's Prayer” when the floor boards creaked? Had they even heard of Jeff Buckley? Maybe it was better if they didn't know. Jeff's music was haunting enough to those who heard it. The mind boggles at what energetic imprint he may have left behind in a physical space.

Part 3: Coming Soon!!

Check out Pt. 1 Here:

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