Jeff Buckley is one of those artists who, because of his untimely death, left a million what if’s floating around. The canonization of such artists helps magnify and mystify even their smallest efforts. Sure, it’s terrifying to think that Clifford Brown was only 25 when he died, or that Kurt Cobain was able to have such a huge effect on an entire generation without living past 27, but it is only because they’re gone that we’re able to wonder (or care). If Radiohead died in a plane crash after OK Computer, their legacy would of course be much different.
However I really can’t hep myself with the ‘what if’ with Jeff Buckley. The only full record he left with us is amazingly daring, well-rounded and accessible. I have ventured little outside this official collection of songs because most of what remains are either demos or incomplete recordings, and they were never given the go-ahead by Buckley himself to be released, so I think it’s unfair to associate these tracks with him.
But recently, I was reading up on the history of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and I noticed that particularly popular rendition of the most famous movement, “When I am Laid In Earth” was that of Jeff Buckley. Now, I’m having a hard time thinking of even a single other pop/rock artist of the last 20 years who has even attempted an opera cover, let alone successfully, or of one from the 17th century. It’s a perfect example of how fearless Buckley really was, as well as a great sign of his abilities and (lost) potential.