Naturally, the musical world is full of convergences. In fact, you could go as far as saying that these meetings are actually one of the fundamental driving forces behind the music industry as a whole. Whether that be band members meeting each other and then going on to form a legendary group, artists meeting iconic managers or journalists and then securing success, or even different creatives coming together to collaborate – music is a complex web comprised of many of these sorts of meetings.
In short, music as a discipline is an inherently personable one. Just think of the number of incredible partnerships it has given us over the years; Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards and Plant/Page. The list is truly endless. The miraculous thing about the musical world is that its perennial mode of rubbing shoulders is actually both a blessing and a curse.
We have been given some of the most iconic pieces of music of all time, such as David Bowie and Nile Rodgers’ 1983 smash ‘Let’s Dance’ and also some downright terrible ones – does Metallica and Lou Reed’s 2011 offering, Lulu ring any bells? But then we get convergences that are a little bit outside of the norm. These are instances that happen in exceptional circumstances. There are innumerable tales of musicians from different bands becoming friends, but there aren’t many where one of them tragically passes away, and the friend helps the grieving mother out to release a posthumous album.
Of course, given the headline, we’re talking about the friendship between two of the most iconic yet tragic musicians of all time: the late troubadour Jeff Buckley and Soundgarden’s late frontman, Chris Cornell. Buckley was one of the most unique and talented musicians to have ever graced the planet, and when he tragically drowned whilst swimming in the Mississippi river in 1997, his departure left a massive hole in the lives of audiences, friends and family.
In an interview entitled ‘Mother preserving Jeff Buckley’s legacy’ published in NOW Magazine in 1998, Buckley’s mother, Mary Guibert, discussed how Buckley’s band and Chris Cornell had helped her to navigate the music industry and get the posthumous record, 1998’s Sketches for my Sweetheart the Drunk.
Of the unfinished songs that Buckley left behind, Mary said: “Jeff worked very, very hard to break through and write these songs. Much of the music was in no state to be revealed, so there are songs that no one has heard that may be suitable for other people to perform one day. But there was a point where I knew I just could not bury this music. I could not just keep it in my little apartment here. I had to have his voice heard and let the music speak for itself.”
Guibert then said that Buckley’s guitarist, Michael Tighe, A&R man Michael Clouse and Chris Cornell formed a critical trifecta in getting the album made. “Jeff hated name-dropping,” Guibert says, “Which is why Chris’ involvement in the project has surprised some people. Few people knew they were friends.”
She explained: “So everyone – the band, Chris – helped me to navigate the music business somewhat, and that was really important. They had impartial ears about what should and shouldn’t be released because, needless to say, my impartiality was shot.”
Thank God for Chris Cornell. Not only was Sketches the last studio offering we’d get from Jeff Buckley, but it was also surprisingly excellent. In addition to Tighe and Clouse, co-producer Tom Verlaine of Television fame also needs some praise showered upon him for his excellent job at bringing the tracks to life.
It’s a shame that Chris Cornell also passed away prematurely, but it is through many stories like this, where he showed a genuine kindness and his iconic music, that he will live on forever.
Listen to Sketches for my Sweetheart the Drunk in full below.