Tim Buckley, born Timothy Charles Buckley III, was born on St. Valentine’s Day 1947; he died at the age of 28 on June 29, 1975. Buckley was an American musician and vocalist. He recorded his first album (folk oriented) in 1966, but later his music style changed to include jazz, psychedelia, funk, soul, and avant-garde.
He fathered two sons; son Jeff was also a musician who died at a young age. Buckley was born in Washington DC. His mother was an Italian American while his father had emigrated from Ireland. At a young age Buckley was introduced to Bessie Smith; Billie Holiday; Frank Sinatra; Miles Davis; Judy Garland; Hank Williams; and Johnny Cash. He taught himself to play the banjo and along with friends formed a folk group inspired by the Kingston Trio.
Prior to his high school graduation, Buckley and a friend had written over two dozen songs, several of which appeared on Buckley’s debut album entitled Tim Buckley. Buckley attended Fullerton College in 1965, but for only two weeks. Upon dropping out, he dedicated himself to his music, playing at Los Angeles folk clubs. He also played at various coffeehouses.
That year (1965) he was named an up-and-comer, one of “The Orange County Three,” along with Steve Noonan and Jackson Browne. In 1966, Buckley became a regular at the Night Owl Café in Greenwich Village, NY. Buckley’s exposure there landed him a recording contract with Elektra Records.
Goodbye and Hello was released in 1967; it featured late 1960’s style poetry and songs; Elektra Records had given Buckley free rein on the musical content of the album. Buckley appeared on The Tonight Show, although he was known in the business as someone who was uncomfortable providing interviews. In 1968 Happy Sad was released; it was a combination of folk and jazz styles. It was his best charting album, peaking at #81.
During 1969, Buckley began to write and record material for three different albums: Lorca, Blue Afternoon, and Starsailor. Following the latter’s release, album sales declined quickly. Buckley became unable to produce his own music and was left almost penniless. He turned to alcohol and drugs. In 1971 he acted in an unreleased, low-budget film drama entitled Why?
In 1970 Buckley assembled a new band of funk players, which included Joe Falsia and Buddy Helm. The band produced three albums commonly described as “sex funk.” With Buckley’s “hippie fan base” deteriorating, he enjoyed a cult following. In 1975 he stopped using drugs and talked of a live album comeback.
In June of that year after completing his last life show as part of a Dallas, Texas tour (a sold-out venue), Buckley spent the weekend drinking with his band and with friends. After an argument with a male friend, an inebriated Buckley was given heroin and later driven home. Later that evening paramedics were called to the Buckley home to revive him, but all attempts were unsuccessful. Buckley’s friend, who had provided the heroin, later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Tim Buckley died broke and in debt. Over 200 family and friends attended his funeral in Santa Monica. From 1966 to 1974, Tim Buckley released 9 studio albums and 7 live albums. Since his death, three books have been written about him. In 2000 and 2005, tribute albums were released in honor of the late Tim Buckley.