It seems that not too many people today remember the fine, highly idiosyncratic folk and jazz-ish singer-songwriter Tim Buckley, who died of a drug overdose on this day 42 years ago, at the age of 28. His own fame has long since been eclipsed by that of his son, whom he did not raise, Jeff Buckley (“Hallelujah,” et al), who also died under tragic circumstances, drowning in 1997 at age 30.
Tim Buckley was a true original, emerging in the mid-’60s, first as a solo folk act in his native southern California, and then in New York’s Greenwich Village, mostly playing original songs he co-wrote with a high school friend named Larry Beckett. A demo disc he cut in mid-1966 landed him a contract with Jac Holzman’s Elektra Records (then riding high with the Butterfield Blues Band, and soon to launch into the stratosphere with the Doors). His songs were extremely diverse stylistically, as was the production of his albums—”eclectic” doesn’t begin to tell the story. He tried his hand at folk, folk-rock, jazz, blues, even avant-garde, and his vocal style was similarly all over the map, ranging from a deep, expressive, and at times highly dramatic baritone, to an almost eerie falsetto. He never sold a lot of records (the 1968 LP Happy Sad was his biggest seller), but he was highly respected and certainly had a rabid (if small) fan base.
This Throwback Thursday video is something of an oddity. It’s a live performance of Buckley’s “Song to the Siren” that appeared in 1968 on the final episode of The Monkees’ eponymous hit TV show. It’s just Buckley and his Guild 12-string, singing from the heart. The song didn’t turn up on a Buckley album until 1970’s Starsailor, which is one of the most unusual (“eccentric” might be a better word) records in his catalog. Robert Plant and Bryan Ferry have both covered this affecting song, which has also appeared on a number of posthumous Buckley compilations, such as the two-disc Starsailor: The Anthology. —Blair Jackson