YO YO YO! It’s the third installment of my Life Lessons from Lyrics series, and as always, it’s SO HARD to choose a favorite among my lyrical obsessions. Choices, choices… but of course, I landed on one. An epic one, at that, or at least for me: Jeff Buckley.
A gifted songwriter, otherworldly vocalist, and a bonafide stone cold fox, Jeff Buckley has inspired me since the day I first heard his version of Hallelujah – which is IMHO the best cover of any song that I’ve heard. BOOM goes the gauntlet to the ground! I’ve loved him ever since, singing along with his recordings as (rather challenging) at-home voice lessons, writing his lyrics over and over in my journal, listening to Satisfied Mind on repeat when I just need a good cry (yeah, I’m that girl, so what), imagining James Franco playing him in the movie of his life (Penn Badgley? REALLY?!) and generally being obsessed. Hell, Tom and I even danced to his gorgeous cover of ‘The Twelfth Of Never’ as the first dance at our wedding! Honestly, dudes and dudettes, his voice is in my top 5 favorites of all time – pure, one of a kind, haunting, perfect in almost every way but just flawed enough to make you really stop and listen. Have I sufficiently gotten across how much of a JB fangirl I am? Yes? Good, then ON TO THE LYRICS!
First of all, allow me to say I love a man that can rock multiple accessories, a perfectly tousled pompadour, and a sequin blazer. Whew, thanks – anyway. Jeff passed away so young that this was his only real studio album, so of course, the bulk of my lyrical inspiration from him comes from Grace. First off, I’d be remiss to forget to mention the honest truth of the last line of the song ‘So Real’ that is so perfect in its simplicity:
“I love you, but I’m afraid to love you.”
I mean, I know, duh – but also, SO GOOD. If you haven’t felt this in your life, you’re a lucky sonofabitch, and you should go read another blog. Seriously. One of the more popular songs on the album, ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’, gets to the heart of that awkward time in your life when you know you’re not a kid anymore, but you’re not quite ready to shoulder all that being an adult might mean to you, including loving another human being in a way that benefits and doesn’t harm both parties. Seems simple when written out like that, I know, but there are thirty-and-fourtysomethings I know that haven’t figured it out yet either – guess Jeff was on to something here, too:
“It’s never over, my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder,
It’s never over, all my riches for her smiles when I slept so soft against her,
It’s never over, all my blood for the sweetness of her laughter,
It’s never over, she’s the tear that hangs inside my soul forever.
Well maybe I’m just too young
to keep good love from going wrong…
Oh, lover, you should’ve come over
‘Cause it’s not too late.”
My family also has the song “Eternal Life” to thank for being forced to find me the most ridiculous box to be buried in:
“Eternal life is now on my trail –
got my red glitter coffin, man, just need one last nail.”
Red glitter?! Love it. Yes. The song has a much more serious message than what’s in that line, but my squirrel brain has trouble getting past the mental picture of the fabulosity of my funeral, as morbid as that is, with a coffin THAT epic. Anyway. On to the next one!
Jeff’s other studio album, an incomplete collection of songs that he was reportedly not happy with the recordings of, was released posthumously in the state he left it upon his death in 1997. It took me a while to digest this album, with the songs just all over the map, from the gritty cover of Genesis’ ‘Back In N.Y.C.’ to the stark simplicity of ‘You & I’. The trancelike repetition of one specific lyric in ‘New Year’s Prayer’ that sticks with me is a simple one:
“Feel no shame for what you are,
Feel no shame for what you are –
feel it as a water fall.”
The song that landed instantly upon hearing it, though, was ‘Morning Theft’. I was in a rather tumultuous long distance relationship at the time, and so the words he wrote rang so truthfully with me. I can’t say it’s my favorite song of his, but it’s up there, and not only because I love the guitar sound or that the melody is so perfect, but mostly because these lyrics get me every. single. time.
True self is what brought you here to me,
a place where we can accept this love.
Friendship battered down by useless history,
What am I still to you? Some thief who stole from you?
Or some fool drama queen whose chances were few?
That brings us to who we need,
A place where we can save a heart that beats as both siphon and reservoir.
You’re a woman, I’m a calf,
you’re a window, I’m a knife.
We come together making chance in the starlight.
Meet me tomorrow night, or any day you want –
I have no right to wonder just how, or when.
You know the meaning fits, there’s no relief in this,
I miss my beautiful friend.
I had to send it away to bring us back again.
Don’t believe that I obsessed over these lyrics to the point of writing them over and over again like a depressing long distance relationship mantra in my journal? I leave you with the proof, circa 2006:
Until next week, I wish you all Jeff Buckley dreams filled with makeouts and long, meaningful conversations and… What? Oh. Sorry. See you next week.