2013 has so far rocked and rolled its way into autumn with all of the light and the dark of life being lived. Betwixt it all, there came significant birthday milestones for both myself and the better half. With that, the excuse to embark on some much-needed escapism in the form of three weeks of celebratory vacation time that took us from the auld hometown of Dublin, Ireland and encompassed Chicago, Illinois and Orlando, Florida, with an exciting road trip in between that covered Nashville, Memphis and Franklin, Tennessee, and Tupelo, Mississippi. So many highlights, too many to mention, but some too good not to share!
Starting with a poignant reminder of the fragility of life…
While strolling close to the Beale Street Landing, along the banks of the Wolf River in Memphis, we came across a bench, bearing a small plaque inscribed with a tribute to singer and songwriter, Jeff Buckley. Placed there by Mike Todd and his family in September, 2013, you can see Mike’s message to me in the comments section below…a beautiful gesture.
Posthumously famous for his haunting cover of the Leonard Cohen classic, Hallelujah, Buckley moved to Memphis in 1997 to work on his album, My Sweetheart the Drunk. During this time, he also played weekly shows at ‘Barristers’, a downtown bar, located beneath a parking garage off Jefferson Avenue. On the evening of May, 29th, while waiting for his band to arrive from New York to work on his recordings, Jeff, having swam there several times before, dived, fully clothed, into the Wolf River for a spontaneous swim.
The River, which enters the Mississippi near the northern end of Mud Island, north of downtown Memphis, is also the route for many tugboats. Jeff tragically drowned, his body found six days later, having been pulled under the wake of such a tug vessel.
Despite some rumours of depression and suicidal tendencies, the subsequent autopsy showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in Jeff’s system and his death was ruled as an accidental drowning.
His passing inspired musical tributes from many of his contemporaries, including Chris Cornell’s Wave Goodbye, PJ Harvey’s Memphis. Rufus Wainwright’s Memphis Skyline, and Aimee Mann’s Just Like Anyone. He was just 30 years of age.
Hope he’s resting in peace there, on his very own bench, on the Riverbank…
Your timing is unreal! I just spent the last few days researching his life and his father’s as I am writing a screenplay about a music festival where Tim Buckley performed in the 70’s. It looks like there was a highly regarded movie about the father and son made last year called “Greetings from Tim Buckley”.
That sounds exciting, Jane! Best of luck with the screenplay!
Hi Caroline, my name is Mike Todd and on a family vacation in September 2013 I put this plaque on that bench seat in Memphis. I had the plaque made up at a local sign maker. We feel very strongly about the plaque and hope it remains for many, many years as a fitting tribute to an awesome artist.
What a beautiful gesture. Thanks for getting in touch to let me know. I will credit you on the blog, and yes, it is indeed a fitting and wonderful tribute…well done.
Where is this bench exactly? Please tell me. I do something special for Jeff at the river every year. I can not wait to find this bench. Help me get a feel for where it is please! And thank you for honoring his life! I am so moved!
If you start at the Beale Street Landing building and facing the river, turn left. Walk along the river until you see the blue bench, as in the photo. Best of Luck! 🙂
I was down by the river today in hopes of finding the spot that Jeff had drowned. I was on the lookout to find this bench. I was told by a worker that is had been removed. Could this be true?
Oh dear, that would be such a shame. I hope it’s not true.
I truly believe Jeff lives on through his music. His music has brought me out of a really difficult internal battle I was having and I will be forever grateful.
A lovely sentiment, Katie. Thanks