Tim Buckley died aged twenty-eight on 29th July 1975 in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. after celebrating the culmination of his final tour with his band and friends.Tim had apparently ingested a bag of heroin and his reaction put him in such a bad state that friends took him home. Tim's wife Judy, seeing his condition, moved Tim into bed. Checking on him later, she found he had turned blue and was no longer breathing and was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital. The coroner's report stated that Tim Buckley died from "acute heroin/morphine and ethanol intoxication due to inhalation and ingestion of an overdose"
Tim Buckley was born Timothy Charles Buckley III on February 14th 1947 in Washington, D.C. USA on St. Valentine's Day, to Elaine (née Scalia), an Italian American, and Timothy Charles Buckley Jr., a highly decorated World War II veteran who was the son of Irish immigrants from Cork. Tim spent his early childhood in Amsterdam, New York, an industrial city approximately forty miles northwest of Albany. At five years old he began listening to his mother's progressive jazz recordings, particularly Miles Davis.
Tim Buckley's musical life began in earnest 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. When the folk music revolution came around in the early 1960s, Tim Buckley taught himself the banjo at age thirteen, and with several friends formed a folk group inspired by the Kingston Trio that played local high school events.
During his initial high school years, Tim Buckley was a popular and engaged student; he was elected to numerous offices, played on the baseball team and quarterbacked the football team. During a football game he broke the first two fingers on his left hand, permanently damaging them. He later said that the injury prevented him from playing bar chords. This disability may have led to his use of extended chords, many of which don't require bars.
Tim Buckley attended Loara High School in Anaheim, California, He quit football and cut classes regularly, focusing most of his attention on music instead. He befriended Larry Beckett, his future lyricist, and Jim Fielder, a bass player with whom he formed two separate musical groups, the Bohemians, who initially played popular music, and the Harlequin 3, a folk group which regularly incorporated spoken word and beat poetry into their gigs.
In 1965, during French class,Tim Buckley met Mary Guibert, one grade his junior. Their relationship inspired some of his music, and provided him time away from his turbulent home life. His father had become unstable, angry and occasionally violent in his later years. He had suffered a serious head injury during the war; that, along with a severe work-related injury, was said to have affected his mental balance. Tim Buckley and Mary Guibert married on October 25th, 1965, as Mary believed she was pregnant. The marriage angered Mary's father and he did not attend the wedding; Tim Buckley's father attended, but joked to the priest, "I give it six months". Shortly after the wedding Mary realized that she was not pregnant after all.
The marriage was tumultuous, and Tim Buckley quickly moved out, but Mary soon became pregnant. After several months, Tim found himself neither willing nor able to cope with marriage and impending fatherhood. From then on, he and Mary saw each other only sporadically. They divorced in October 1966, about a month before their son Jeffrey Scott was born.
By then, Tim Buckley and lyricist friend Beckett had written dozens of songs; several were to appear on Tim's debut album, 'Tim Buckley'. "Buzzin' Fly", was also written during this period, and was featured on Happy Sad, his 1969 LP.
Tim Buckley's ill-conceived college career at Fullerton College lasted only two weeks in 1965; He dropped out and dedicated himself fully to his music and to playing L.A. folk clubs. During the summer of 1965 he played regularly at a club co-founded by Dan Gordon. Later in the year he played various Orange County coffeehouses, such as the White Room in Buena Park, and the Monday night hootenannies at the famed Los Angeles Troubadour. That year Cheetah Magazine deemed Tim Buckley an up-and-comer, one of "The Orange County Three", along with Steve Noonan and Jackson Browne.
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 and landed him an extended gig at the Nite Owl Cafe in Greenwich Village. Tim Buckley's new girlfriend, Jainie Goldstein, drove him cross-country to New York in her VW bug. While living in the Bowery with Jainie, Tim Buckley ran into Lee Underwood, and asked him to play guitar for him. From there, they became lifelong friends and collaborators.
Under Cohen's management, Tim Buckley recorded a six-song demo acetate disc, which he sent to Elektra records owner Jac Holzman who offered him a recording contract.
Tim Buckley recorded his eponymous debut album in three days in Los Angeles, in August 1966. He was generally unhappy with his albums after the fact; he described this one as "like Disneyland". The record featured Tim and a backing band of Orange County friends, including Underwood, whose mix of jazz and country improvisation on a twangy Telecaster guitar became a distinctive part of Tim Buckley's early sound. Jac Holzman and Paul Rothchild's production style and Jack Nitzsche's string arrangements cemented in the record's mid-sixties sound.
The album's folk-rock style was largely typical of the time, although many people, including Lee Underwood, felt that the string additions by Jack Nitzsche "did not enhance its musical quality." Critics, however, took note of Tim Buckley's distinctive voice and tuneful compositions.
On later reflection, those involved with the album saw it as demonstrative of the potential of the group.
'Goodbye and Hello', released in 1967, featured late 1960s-style poetry and songs in different timings and was an ambitious release for the then-20-year-old Tim Buckley. Reflecting the confidence Elektra had in Tim Buckley and group, they were given free rein on the music and content of the album. Beckett continued as lyricist and the album consisted of half Tim Buckley originals and half Beckett–Buckley collaborations. Critics noted the improved lyrical and melodic qualities of Buckley's music. Tim Buckley's voice had also developed since the last release and the press appreciated both his lower register and higher falsetto in equal measure.
The subject matter of the album also distinguished it from its predecessor. Beckett addressed the psychological nature of war in "No Man Can Find the War", and Underwood welcomed Tim Buckley's entry into darker territory with "Pleasant Street". "I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain" represented a confessional lyric to his estranged wife and child, while the mix of introspective folk songs and political-themed content attracted folk fans and anti-war audiences alike. Elektra owner Jac Holzman had much faith in the young up-and-comer, renting advertising space for the musician on the Sunset Strip which was virtually unheard of for an unestablished solo act. Holzman stated, "the combined effect of his words, his music, his passion, his persona struck a particular resonance. Tim Buckley distanced himself from comparisons to Bob Dylan, expressing a general apathy towards Dylan and his work. While 'Goodbye and Hello' did not make Tim Buckley a star, it performed better in the charts than his previous effort, peaking at number 171.
His higher profile also led to more opportunities, such as the album The Best of Tim Buckley being used as a soundtrack to the 1969 film Changes. Tim Buckley performed "Song to the Siren" on the final episode of The Monkees TV show, despite being generally wary of press and media, often avoiding interviews or being unresponsive. After a slot on The Tonight Show, Tim Buckley was standoffish and insulting towards Carson, and on another television appearance refused to lip-synch to "Pleasant Street".
After Beckett was drafted into the Army, Tim Buckley was free to develop his own individual style. He described the jazz/blues-rock that he was associated with at the time as "white thievery and an emotional sham." Drawing inspiration from jazz greats such as Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Roland Kirk, and vocalist Leon Thomas, his subsequent independently-recorded music was vastly different from previous recordings.
In 1968 Tim Buckley recorded 'Happy Sad', which reflected folk and jazz influences. This would be his best charting album, peaking at number 81. Dissatisfied with playing the same material continuously, and with the music business that he felt was restraining him from producing new material, Tim began to weave new songs into his performances, featuring an increasingly minimalist sound, and introducing a vibraphone player into his band. However, this attempted rejuvenation was a commercial failure, and alienated audiences who saw him as a folk-rock poster boy.
During 1969, Tim Buckley began to write and record material for three different albums: Lorca, Blue Afternoon, and Starsailor. Inspired by the singing of avant-garde musician Cathy Berberian, he decided to integrate the ideas of composers such as Luciano Berio and Iannis Xenakis in an avant-garde rock genre. He started to fully use his vocal range. According to Underwood, Tim Buckley knew that Lorca had little to no chance in the commercial market. Selecting eight songs that had yet to be recorded, these tracks evolved into the sessions for Blue Afternoon, an album that was quite similar to Happy Sad in style. In a 1977 article for Down Beat magazine, Underwood wrote that Tim Buckley's heart was not into the Blue Afternoon performances and that the album was a perfunctory response to please his business partners.
Neither album sold well: Lorca alienated his folk base, while Blue Afternoon was widely criticized as boring and tepid – not even good sulking music , as one critic wrote. Blue Afternoon was Tim Buckley's last album to hit the Billboard charts, reaching number 192. After the lack of success for both records, Tim Buckley began to focus more on what he felt to be his true masterpiece, 'Starsailor'.
Starsailor contained free jazz textures under his 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, however, was a critical and commercial failure. Following its release, Tim Buckley's sales declined rapidly, and the quality of his live shows plummeted.
Unable to produce his own music and almost completely broke, he turned to alcohol and drug binges. He also considered acting, completing an unreleased low-budget film entitled 'Why'? (1971) after several abortive meetings with Hollywood producers. The film was an experimental use of the new medium videotape, commissioned by Technicolor.
In April 1970, Tim Buckley married Judy Brejot Sutcliffe in Santa Monica, and adopted her son, Taylor Keith Sutcliffe.
Tim Buckley abruptly disbanded his Starsailor ensemble near the end of 1970, and assembled a new funk band. He cut three albums of what has been described as "sex funk": 'Greetings from L.A'., 'Sefronia' and 'Look at the Fool'. Tim Buckley had alienated much of his hippie fan base with his previous two albums, and his often sexually frank lyrics prevented the songs from receiving airplay. But he retained a cult following.
In 1975 Tim Buckley engaged the musical press regarding a live album comeback. Tim began performing revamped versions of material drawn from his entire career (except Starsailor and Lorca) as a response to the desires of his audience, which he had spurned in the past.
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Written and performed by Tim Buckley