10 Best Jeff Buckley Songs

Jeff Buckley is best known for his sensitive reading of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. It’s well done, but taken alone it undersells Buckley’s immense talents. Far more than a crooner, he was also a talented guitarist and a sophisticated songwriter – other artists were capable of a lovely cover of ‘Hallelujah’, but fewer were capable of sophisticated rockers like ‘Grace’ and ‘Mojo Pin’.

Despite his pedigree – his father Tim was also a notable recording artist – Buckley was a late starter, only recording one album before accidentally drowning in Memphis at the age of 31. The combination of a tiny catalogue and an immense talent means that Buckley’s legacy has been thoroughly picked over. His only album, Grace, showcases an awe-inspiring musical talent but is also flawed, bogged down by a sequence of slower songs.

Buckley’s influences included Led Zeppelin and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, as well as blues musician Robert Johnson and punk band Bad Brains. He was adored by rock’s elder statesmen – Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Bob Dylan, and David Bowie all named Grace as a favourite, with Dylan citing Buckley as “one of the great songwriters of this decade.”

10 Best Jeff Buckley Songs

#10 Yard of Blonde Girls

from Sketches for My Sweetheart, the Drunk, 1998
Sketches for My Sweetheart, the Drunk function as a second album for Buckley, but it’s incomplete. Buckley had recorded an album with Television’s Tom Verlaine producing, but was planning to scrap it and start afresh – he drowned on the eve of restarting the album. The Verlaine sessions, along with later demos, were released in 1998. One of the record’s strongest songs, ‘Yard of Blonde Girls’, wasn’t written by Buckley – when he recorded it, he didn’t realise that the second verse was written about him.

It’s in your heart, it’s in your art, your beauty.
Even in this world of lies, there’s purity,
You’ve got innocence in your eyes.
Even in this world of lies, you’re still hopeful.

#9 All Flowers In Time Bend Toward The Sun (with Liz Fraser)

unreleased, recorded 1995 or 1996
At times, the fascination with Buckley’s catalogue has felt like scraping the bottom of the barrel, with releases like Grace Around the World. But despite all the posthumous activity, one fascinating song by Buckley remains in the archive – collaborator Elizabeth Fraser has dismissed their collaboration as “unfinished, you see. I don’t want it to be heard.” Fraser, the lead singer of the Cocteau Twins, previously recorded a version of Tim Buckley’s ‘Song to the Siren’ in the mid-1980s. She was in a relationship with Jeff Buckley in the mid-1990s, and they sang together on ‘All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun’. Even if it’s unvarnished, with Fraser and Buckley only accompanied by an acoustic guitar, it’s still enthralling – two unique, spectacular voices in an unlikely pairing.

#8 Dream Brother

from Grace, 1994
The final song from Grace is poignant in retrospect – Buckley sings “dream asleep in the sand with the ocean washing over.” The song was written as a plea to Buckley’s friend, Fishbone’s Tom Dowd, not to abandon his pregnant girlfriend. Buckley references how his own father abandoned him – Tim Buckley only met his son once, at the age of 8.

#7 Mojo Pin

from Grace, 1994
Buckley’s opening track for his debut album gives a good understanding of his musical scope – an ambitious, soaring song that goes from a whisper to a scream, with a hint of psychedelia. Buckley’s explanation of the song was somewhat pretentious:

“Sometimes if somebody you feel you need… the whole universe tells you that you have to have her, you start watching her favorite TV shows all night, you start buying her the things she needs, you start drinking her drinks, you start smoking her bad cigarettes, you start picking up her nuances in her voice, you sleep in safe sometimes the most dangerous thing… this is called Mojo Pin.”

#6 Forget Her

outtake from Grace, 1994
‘Forget Her’ missed the cut for Grace – it’s a fully-realised outtake that’s been added to later editions of the record. It’s hard to believe it failed to make the record. Personally, I would have shunted the cover of Benjamin Britten’s ‘Corpus Christi’ off to a b-side – it does little more than showcase Buckley’s versatility and eclectic interests, while ‘Forget Her’ is sophisticated and moody.

#5 Eternal Life

from Grace, 1994
The middle of Grace gets bogged down in slow songs. This helps the penultimate track, ‘Eternal Life’, to stand out, a jolt of energy after gentle covers of ‘Lilac Wine’ and ‘Hallelujah’. Buckley explained that “this is a song about… it’s an angry song. Life’s too short and too complicated for people behind desks and people behind masks to be ruining other people’s lives, initiating force against other people’s lives on the basis of their income, their color, their class, their religious beliefs, their whatever…”

#4 Grace

from Grace, 1994
The songs of Grace were largely inspired by Buckley’s relationship and breakup with New York artist Rebecca Moore. The title track was the first single from the record. Buckley was a fan of The Smiths – he covered ‘I Know It’s Over’ and ‘The Boy With The Thorn In His Side’ live. The jangly riff of ‘Grace’ is something that Johnny Marr might play. Buckley wrote the song on a rainy day at an airport, and explained that the title refers to the “real state of grace through somebody else’s love in you.”

#3 The Sky Is A Landfill

from Sketches for My Sweetheart, the Drunk, 1998
Buckley’s second, unfinished album is much less polished than his first – it’s evident that Buckley was aiming for a tougher sound. The song’s taut and tough. The song’s a critique of the entertainment industry, Buckley shooting for artistic integrity as he made his second album.

#2 Everybody Here Wants You

from Sketches for My Sweetheart, the Drunk, 1998
I mostly avoided Buckley’s slow burners on this list, but this one’s gorgeous, with Buckley using his falsetto for a soulful sound. The high notes he hits in the third verse are gorgeous. The song was written for Buckley’s girlfriend Joan Wasser, also known as Joan the Police Woman. It was rumoured that Buckley had proposed marriage to her shortly before his death.

#1 Last Goodbye

from Grace, 1994
The second single from Grace, ‘Last Goodbye’ showcases Buckley’s talent in an action-packed four minutes. Like much of Buckley’s best material on Grace, it employs dynamics, contrasting tenderness and muscle. It’s built around some great musical elements – a propulsive bass line, some Eastern-sounding strings, and a jangly guitar riff.

Did I miss your favourite Jeff Buckley song?



Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.


    • Yeah, it’s a shame Fraser doesn’t want to officially release it because it’s excellent. I listened to Lewis Taylor’s version – I liked it, but hard to compare to Buckley’s vocal.

  1. I’ve been listening to him in the last few days. I’ve always wanted to know more about him…and this was a good time to do so.
    Out of the songs you have…my absolute favorite is Everybody Here Wants You. It shows off his voice wonderfully. Yard Full of Blondes is a good rocker and I like Eternal Life.
    He is more rock than I previously thought. Thanks Graham…I’m going to keep checking him out.

    • Thanks for listening. He was a pretty unique talent – just being known for Hallelujah undersells him. He could rock and could write sophisticated songs.

      • Yes…I knew Hallelujah…I didn’t know he could rock like that. I was totally surprised on many of the songs.

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