In 1995, Jeff Buckley was a relative unknown in Britain. The singer’s new album Grace had seen him become a permanent fixture on the teenage bedroom walls of America. But across the pond, he wasn’t just unknown he was also widely unloved too.
After his tragic death, his voice may attract thousands and thousands of fans but in ’95 in Britain, the singer was seen as a bit of a lame rock export. After all, Britain was currently in the throes of macho Britpop gold and Buckley’s lighter than air approach saw him categorised with a host of uncool singer-songwriters. But, luckily, with the benefit of hindsight, we can now give him the appreciation he deserves.
While there are a few moments in Britain that Buckley shone, his performance on Greater London Radio will go down in musical legend. For our money, this performance of ‘Grace’, the title track from his new album, is about as clear an image of Buckley and his vast talent as you’ll ever see.
The song was also the first single from the album and held a clear and distinctive spot in Buckley’s heart. In a MuchMusic interview in 1994, Buckley said: “The song itself is about…it’s an elegy; to no one, about…I always describe it as not fearing anything, anyone, any man, any woman, any war, any gun, any sling or arrow aimed at your heart by other people because there is somebody, finally, who loves you for real, and that you can achieve a real state of grace through somebody else’s love in you.”
He also added: “Everybody knows what it’s like to create an artistic moment; so-called artistic moment, because it’s really just heightened humanism; just a heightened human language. If you’ve spent a night making love, you know exactly what it means to strip your ego, down, where you are there, expressing yourself, wordlessly, collaborating on a moment that has an energy about it that is replenishing or even completely inspirational in a way that you could never imagine. That’s the way art really is.”
Later in the interview, the singer concluded by saying, “grace is what matters, in anything, especially life, especially growth, tragedy, pain, love, death; about people, that’s what matters. That’s a quality I admire very greatly. It keeps you from reaching for the gun too quickly. It keeps you from destroying things too foolishly. It sort of keeps you alive; and it keeps you open for more understanding.”
All this complexity and all this fractured texture is perfectly surmised in one performance as Buckley takes to the BBC studio to perform the song with aplomb. Tender and heartfelt, Buckley is at the top of his game and although he may have been met with detractors when he arrived in Blighty he left with a host of fans.
Below watch Jeff Buckley perform ‘Grace’ live for the BBC Late Show back in 1995.