It was 20 years ago this week, when Jeff Buckley released his album Grace. Grace was Buckley’s first and only complete, studio release. Sales were initially slow, and reviews were mixed. An album that “Rolling Stone” magazine now includes in their 500 Best Albums of All Time, received only a lukewarm, at best, review from that magazine when it came out in August of 1994. Over the past two decades, however, the freshman album has gained in critical stature.
Track #6 on the Grace album was Buckley’s cover of the Leonard Cohen song, “Hallelujah”, which remains his most well known song. When the Boston Red Sox honored the Boston Marathon bombing victims at Fenway Park, the montage was set to Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah”.
Bob Dylan called Buckley “one of the best songwriters of the decade”, and David Bowie named Grace as his “Desert Island Album”. Jeff Buckley drowned on May 29, 1997 in Wolf River Harbor, Memphis, TN while waiting for his band to arrive to record a second studio album. Buckley jumped in the river to swim, fully clothed, singing the chorus to Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. A tugboat went by, and Buckley was lost in the boat’s wake. His body was not found until June 4. There were no drugs or alcohol in his system. He was 30 years old.