Scholar Groups – Composer Profiles, Part 4

After Bruckner, we will continue with another in the trio of ‘B’ composers: Jeff Buckley, the name given to Ms Rose’s scholar group.

Jeff Buckley is probably best known for his song “Hallelujah”, but much of his music has very different influences. Born in California, Buckley’s first musical experiences came with performing covers in the band that he helped to form in the early 1980s. He was keen to listen to music of all genres and was well-known among his friends for borrowing tapes of all kinds of music. Aged nineteen, Buckley attended the Musicians Institute (the Guitar Institute of Technology) in Hollywood. After graduating, he began to pursue a musical career by playing for any bands lacking a guitarist. By the 1990s, he left for New York, hoping this would give him his big break.

While in New York, Buckley played for lots of reggae and punk bands, but was also exposed to Pakistani devotional music, which he grew to love and include in his own music. However, New York didn’t provide Buckley with the break that he was looking for, so he returned to LA to record a demo tape of his own music for his father’s former manager. His father also provided his biggest break to date, when Jeff was asked to perform a tribute to his father in the early 90s. The guitarist of the group he performed with, Gary Lucas, immediately recruited him as singer to his own band.

While Lucas and Buckley enjoyed a fruitful collaboration for some years, they eventually parted ways. Buckley was sufficiently well-known by this point to negotiate a deal with Columbia and continued to make music until his sudden death, aged thirty-one. In spite of his short life, Buckley’s style is difficult to categorise under a single label. His influences are as wide-ranging as the jazz fusion and metal, and his “alternative” status was cemented very quickly once he had his big break. As the only popular music artist to have a scholar group named after them, Buckley stands out as an open-minded musician, who embraced whatever music he heard and didn’t like to settle for a standardised hit.

Recommended listening:

Grace – a song that will be very familiar to our Year 11 students, “Grace” comes from the album of the same name and shows some of Buckley’s favourite methods. This song makes great use of subtle studio techniques and showcases Buckley’s singing talents at their best.

Mojo Pin – Buckley addresses some more controversial topics in this song about addiction. Sometimes described as psychedelic in nature, “Mojo Pin” also has significant musical similarities to hard rock, which displays Buckley’s breadth of compositional style.

Dream Brother – this is the last track on the album, Grace, and shows just how personal Buckley felt his music to be. He described it himself as about a friend of his, whose excessive lifestyle caused him trouble, and the chaos of his life.

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