90s | Music | Pop Culture

The Chilling Story Behind Jeff Buckley, A Rising Star Who Was Literally Swept Away

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Konbini / Pitchfork

The sun was just beginning to set on a warm evening on May 29, 1997. Wolf River Harbor, a water channel of the Mississippi River, was calm and still.

30-year-old singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley was captivated by the serene surroundings, unable to keep his eyes off the tranquility as he waded into the water, while still wearing his boots, shirt, and pants.

Then he began singing the chorus of Led Zeppelin's song "Whole Lotta Love," which is basically the name of the song repeated over and over again.

And that's where his story ends, leaving millions of fans shocked and confused by his last day on earth.

Buckley got his first taste of fame when he performed his first gig at a club, and after that he was hooked. He was only a teenager, and spent most of his time playing guitar and singing cover songs instead of focusing on school.

A few years later, he spent a decade working as a session guitarist in Los Angeles. In the early '90s, Buckley went to New York City to play cover songs at venues. And people loved him. His voice was unique, authentic, and the vibrations in his vocal chords told a heartfelt story.

That's around the time he started focusing on his own material, and with the help of his late father's music connections, Tim Buckley, who was also a singer-songwriter and guitarist, he signed with Columbia Records.

By 1994 he recorded his first, and only, studio album, Grace. Tracks like "Lover, You Should've Come Over," "Mojo Pin," and "So Real" are still some of the most heart-wrenching melodies out there.

However, the rising star became well-known internationally for his beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah."

Buckley's version was described by Time magazine to be "exquisitely sung."

"Buckley treated the ... song like a tiny capsule of humanity, using his voice to careen between glory and sadness, beauty and pain... It's one of the great songs."

After everyone knew the young star's name and could recognize his voice instantly, it was time for Buckley to release his second studio album.

That's when the story turns grim...

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