Okay, readers: Beyond all the grassroots campaigns for record, film, etc. funding, this is what should really matter, okay?
By Dave Steinfeld
Jeff Buckley’s Grace, which came out in 1994, was one of the most acclaimed and influential albums of the decade. It was also the only full-length studio disc that Buckley released in his lifetime. Grace‘s 10 songs referenced musicians ranging from Led Zeppelin to Nina Simone, reflecting the disparity of the singer’s own influences. But there was really nothing quite like it before and there hasn’t been anything quite like it since; the music was as beautiful as it was uncategorizable. The two most well-known tracks on Grace were “Last Goodbye,” a minor hit, and Buckley’s mystical mind-fuck version of the Leonard Cohen chestnut “Hallelujah.” At the end of the latter song, he holds one note longer than seems humanly possible.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that aside from a few guests (including veteran guitarist Gary Lucas), all the music on Grace was made by three guys in their 20s! These three guys were Buckley, bassist Mick Grondahl and drummer Matt Johnson. In late 2014, on the eve of Grace‘s 20th anniversary, Johnson spoke with David Chiu of Pop Matters. “I would have to say that Grace is part of the world of music that is largely pre-digital, or mostly analogue, in it’s production,” he said at the time. “Also, it was made by a group of people who were accustomed to living without cell phones, or who had never surfed the Internet… Consider going to a remote location for weeks in order to make a recording, but going there with no options for communications outside the immediate group of people who are actually present. No blogging while listening to playbacks, no posting selfies on Instagram while someone overdubs guitars, and knowing full well that checking your Inbox will involve getting home weeks later to a large pile of envelopes that need opening.”
In the more than two decades since Grace, Matt Johnson (who is originally from Texas) has stayed busy. Not only has he played drums with both Rufus and Martha Wainwright, St. Vincent and, most recently, Elysian Fields, but he has also released two solo albums. He is known to be an in-demand musician as well as a good guy.
Sadly, tragedy struck Johnson in February of this year. His son Jasper suffered a massive seizure which left him with anoxic brain injury. The road ahead is going to be a long one, as Jasper is facing years of physical and cognitive rehabilitation. This is obviously a costly process as well. To that end, Johnson and Julianne Klopotic (Jasper’s mom) have set up a Fundrazr campaign for their son. If you were ever touched by Grace… If you have a child of your own… Or if you can spare a few dollars and just want to help out, I would urge you to visit the link below and make a donation. The campaign runs through June 14th.