One of the saddest things about the unexpected loss of 90’s rock musician, Jeff Buckley, is that he was only able to fully record and release one studio album, Grace (1994). Though Grace is considered a classic now, most people don’t look past its 10 songs, and even worse, many new fans are only familiar with what’s perhaps Jeff’s most iconic track, his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
While Hallelujah is a breathtakingly beautiful track, there’s so much more to Jeff’s discography to explore. I’ve been a huge fan of his since college and have listened to nearly every song he’s recorded- demos, live tracks, concert footage, you name it. Over the years, I’ve discovered more songs that demand to be heard from Jeff’s expansive catalogue. Here are 10 other beautiful songs by him that newcomers and old fans alike can enjoy!
This track was included on some posthumous versions of Grace, which is a bit blasphemous to Jeff’s memory, as he allegedly didn’t want the song included on the album originally (but that’s another story). We might never know the real reasons why Jeff didn’t want the track included, but it’s a stunningly beautiful ballad; almost a mix of “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” and “Last Goodbye.” The painful yearning is there, the longing, the heartache, and Jeff’s silky voice…it’s an easy one to get caught up in listening to on repeat for hours, or days.
Everybody Here Wants You
Speaking of a silky voice- Jeff can be considered alongside the top R&B crooners with this surprising soul number, “Everybody Here Wants You.” The track was recorded for his follow-up album, My Sweetheart, The Drunk (posthumously released as Sketches for My Sweetheart, The Drunk) and came as a shock the first time I heard it. Compare this passionate, smooth groove track to any number of the heavier rock songs on Grace or even Sweetheart, and it’d be hard to believe they’re even sung by the same person, but this song really shows off Jeff’s musical versatility, and also happens to have some of the most romantic song writing he’s ever done (“I know everybody here wants you/I know everybody here thinks he needs you/I’ll be waiting right here just to show you/How our love will blow it all away”).
This is another incomplete track included on Sketches. “Vancouver” is a song Jeff and his band had been kicking around for years; in fact, you can hear an acoustic/jam version on his Live in Chicago concert DVD. The melody was always striking to me, but the “complete” version is even better, with some of the most interesting song writing on Sketches, an incredibly catchy tune, and lots of Jeff’s sweet falsetto.
All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun
*sigh* This is probably one of the must frustrating of the “unfinished” tracks on this list and it’s also the most beautiful. This song surfaced several years after Jeff’s death in 1997; the track was recorded during a private session between him and his friend (lead singer of the Cocteau Twins), Liz Fraser. Sure, there is something that feels wrong about listening to this intimate moment between two friends, which according to Fraser, was never meant to be released (especially when you hear them laughing at the end of the track), but really? A song this beautiful deserves to be heard. The first time I head the song- took in the lyrics, listened to the harmonies of Liz and Jeff’s voices- I cried, and this track still brings me to tears from time to time. It could even be my favourite Jeff Buckley song, period.
What Will You Say
Most Jeff Buckley fans know that he was estranged from his famous father, Tim Buckley, for most of Jeff’s life, until Tim’s death in 1975. Jeff rarely spoke about his father, and would often get annoyed when interviewers asked about him, so the candidness of “What Will You Say” seems like a surprise. The song is almost certainly autobiographical (“Father do you hear me?/Do you know me?/Did you even care?/What will you say/When you take my place?”), but lyrical content aside, the song is a powerhouse due to its anthem-like chorus and classic rock-remnant guitar riff. The passion in Jeff’s voice during certain live performances is so real (no pun intended) and the song is easily one of my favourites.
Jeff was really fond of doing covers both on his albums and during live performances. Of course, “Hallelujah” is his most famous cover, but he also covers “Lilac Wine” (made popular by Nina Simone) on Grace, as well. My favourite Jeff Buckley cover, however, is “Calling You.” I only recently discovered this one, thanks to the You and I* album, but I fell in love with it instantly; Jeff’s faraway yearning is so romantic and beautiful, and his rendition, though understated, is simply wonderful. His voice is at its best here, as well, so just put this on, close your eyes, and listen.
Yeh Jo Halka Saroor Hae
Jeff was a big fan of the late Pakistani singer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, and he talked about his love for his music often. So it really should’ve been no surprise when Jeff bursts out in a rendition of Nusrat’s song, “Yeh Jo Halka Saroor Hae” on the Live at Sin-e album. What is surprising is how good he is at singing the song, though; he flawlessly sings with what sounds like perfect pronunciation, and really shows off the range of his vocals in the imitation of the famous Qawwali singer. The song starts off as a joke (after an audience member calls out, “Play a NUS-RAT song!”), but ends as a stunning showcase of Jeff’s versatility and range as a musician.
A lot of the songs on Sketches sound drastically different from Jeff’s sound on Grace; the songs are edgier, with a more punk/grunge sound and many of the unfinished tracks on the album’s second disk are evidence of that. Some of them might be a bit too different for listeners- I’ll even admit to finding a few tracks downright unlistenable- but one diamond in the rough is “Jewel Box.” While it still maintains the 90’s grunge rock sound present on the other tracks, it also has a more palatable melody and Jeff’s trademark romantic lyrics (particularly the line, “You left some stars in my belly” which you’ll still see Jeff Buckley fans quoting all over Tumblr even today).
Lover, You Should’ve Come Over
I wasn’t sure whether or not to include these last two songs on this list; both “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” and “Last Goodbye” are both stand out tracks from Grace, but it occurred to me that a new Jeff Buckley listener may not have had the pleasure of hearing them and they’re both favourites of mine that should be heard.
Lover is actually the song that first introduced me to Jeff Buckley’s music. I was introduced to the song through a cover version, done on jazz musician, Jamie Cullum’s debut album, Twentysomething. I loved Jamie’s version so much that I decided to seek out the original, and from the moment I heard Jeff’s version, I fell in love. This is the quintessential heartbreak song for me; how can you not fall apart at lines like, “Too young to hold on, too old to just break free and run” and “It’s never over, my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder…”? Not to mention Jeff’s delivery; again, the passion in his voice conveys perfectly the sadness and emotion you feel after having your heart ripped to shreds, and we’ve all be there before, which makes the song even more relatable. This track is a true classic.
“Last Goodbye” continues in the same vein; it’s another rock ballad about the end of a relationship, though this one is a bit more understated in comparison to the former. I’ve always been a fan of this song, not just based on lyrics and vocals (though both are superb), but due to Jeff’s guitar work; there’s some masterful guitar solos highlighted during this number which makes the song even better.