Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright: Songs of Measured Lament

Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright: Songs of Measured Lament

Jeff Buckley was born in California in 1966 and died at the young age of 31 in a tragic drowning accident in Memphis, Tennessee. He had emerged in New York City’s Lower East Side avant-garde club scene during the early-1990’s as one of the most remarkable musical artists of his generation, acclaimed by audiences, critics,and fellow musicians alike. Buckley performed a version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah on his 1994 debut album Grace. By 1997, Buckley had moved from New York City and settled in Memphis, where he continued to work on what would have been his newest album. His last public show was a solo performance at a small club named Barrister’s in Memphis on May 26, 1997. Buckley died three days later, drowning in Memphis in the Wolf River on May 29, 1997.

Everybody Here Wants You: A Documentary of Buckley’s Life

Jeff Buckley: Halleluja

Rufus Wainwright met Jeff Buckley in the 1990s when Wainwright was an up-and-coming act. By then, Buckley had already released his first album (Grace), and was well on his way to stardom. Wainwright is said to have felt somewhat exasperated that Buckley often played at Sin-é, a café on New York’s Lower East Side, while he had been rejected three times by the club. The two met several months before Buckley’s drowning, during a show that Wainwright was playing. Buckley supposedly helped out with some technical problems, and the two talked over beers for a few hours.

In Wainwright’s 2004 album Want Two, his song Memphis Skyline was written as a tribute to Buckley, a loving elegy for another beautiful boy blessed with more than mere attitude and exhibitionism. “Always hated him for the way he looked/in the gaslight of the morning,” Rufus sings about Buckley, for whom this is a sweetly homoerotic tribute: “So kiss me, my darling, stay with me till morning…” That song also mentions Hallelujah, the Leonard Cohen song that Buckley had notably covered, and which Wainwright later did likewise.

Rufus Wainwright: Hallelujah

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The Remarkable Rufus Wainwright: A Revered Diva and Flawed Hero

The Remarkable Rufus Wainwright: A Revered Diva and Flawed Hero

Rufus Wainwright has been nominated for best International Male Solo Artist at the Brit Music Awards to be held at Earls Court in London on Wednesday night, February 20, 2008. He has been nominated for the single Going to a Town, from his album, Release the Stars (2007). Described by Robbie Williams as “the talent I want to turn into,” he comes from an acclaimed family of folk musicians (his mother is Kate McGarrigle and his father is Loudon Wainwright III).

He has been befriended by artists ranging from Elton John to Debbie Harry and Neil Tennant. However, relatively early in his musical career, expressions of intense, flamboyant extravagance and narcissistic self-absorption drove Wainwright to the very edge of self-destruction. His career almost ended abruptly because of his substance abuse, which led him to enter rehab in 2002. Recalling those days, he has described how the journey back to sanity, back to normality, has been pretty tough for him.

It is because of those harrowing past experiences that Wainwright is desperate not to waste his chances all over again. Reviewers who have watched him get ready to perform now have remarked that looking at him prepare you see a diva, but you also see a perfectionist. One of the reasons other musicians have come to like him so much is because he is a flawed hero. At London’s Brit Awards ceremony, Wainwright will be in his element. Mika, who is expected to walk away with several awards, is one of Wainwright’s most dedicated fans.

Rufus Wainwright: Going to a Town

The music video presented below is a version of Hallelujah, which was originally performed by Leonard Cohen. It was recorded live at the Tribute Concert for Leonard Cohen that was held in Australia at the Sydney Opera House in 2005. The recording features Rufus Wainwright, his sister Martha and friend, Joan Wasser. This particular performance of Hallelujah is remarkably touching for its candid emotional tone of simple, natural dignity.

Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Joan Wasser: Hallelujah

The final video shown below is from a documentary that aired on England’s BBC Channel 4 in 2005. This particular clip from the documentary focuses largely upon the period of time related to Wainwright’s substance abuse difficulties, the people who helped him get through that wearisome phase, and his re-emergence from the dark and deadly pit of escape back into the real world.

All I Want: A Portrait of Rufus Wainwright

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