The late singer’s former manager delivers the definitive account of his young charge’s tragically short career.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
Considering how influential Jeff Buckley remains (despite only having one studio album released during his lifetime) and the mystery surrounding his early death, it’s surprising that more books have not been written about the young artist. Regardless, his former manager, Dave Lory, has just turned in the definitive book on the musician.
Having worked side by side with Buckley — literally in some cases, as he drove the singer/guitarist across the west coast for one of his early solo tours — Lory knew Buckley better than most at a pivotal time in his career, as he was just signing his first record deal. Lory was there as Buckley built up his backing band, cycling through members, through the recording of Grace, and on countless treks across the globe, offering a uniquely personal remembrance of the singer. While there is certainly a lot of love and admiration in their relationship, Lory also doesn’t filter the experiences by painting the musician as a saint – as is often the case of books about long-passed rock stars. Buckley could act like a dick at times and be highly manipulative, and Lory, to his credit, isn’t afraid to share anecdotes. He also doesn’t shy away from Buckley’s growing drug use.
On the other hand, this is hardly a salacious tell-all, as the author spends plenty of time showing Buckley as a wildly talented, uncompromising artist, who could be sweet and thoughtful at times, with a famous, though demonstrably absent father, who constantly threatened to overshadow his son’s own career despite being dead for decades.
The story around the younger Buckley’s own death is recounted in vivid detail here, as Lory remembers first getting the call that the musician was swept away while wading into the Mississippi River late one night while in Memphis recording what was to be his second album. Lory goes into harrowing and deeply personal details as he describes his state as well as those closest to Buckley in the days that passed before the body was finally found.
Though Buckley was just starting his ascent onto the global musical stage when he died, his debut album remains a stellar promise of an impressive career that was supposed to come and with this book (288 pages, in hardcover), Lory has managed to give us all a look into the young musician’s life as he went about putting that album together and working on its follow up.