Letters

Letters 05-23-2016

Examine The Priorities Are you disgusted about closing schools, crumbling roads and bridges, and cuts everywhere? Investigate funding priorities of legislators. In 1985 at the request of President Reagan, Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). For 30 years Norquist asked every federal and state candidate and incumbent to sign the pledge to vote against any increase in taxes. The cost of living has risen significantly since 1985; think houses, cars, health care, college, etc...

Make TC A Community For Children Let’s be that town that invests in children actively getting themselves to school in all of our neighborhoods. Let’s be that town that supports active, healthy, ready-to-learn children in all of our neighborhoods...

Where Are Real Christian Politicians? As a practicing Christian, I was very disappointed with the Rev. Dr. William C. Myers statements concerning the current presidential primaries (May 8). Instead of using the opportunity to share the message of Christ, he focused on Old Testament prophecies. Christ gave us a new commandment: to love one another...

Not A Great Plant Pick As outreach specialist for the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network and a citizen concerned about the health of our region’s natural areas, I was disappointed by the recent “Listen to the Local Experts” feature. When asked for their “best native plant pick,” three of the four garden centers referenced non-native plants including myrtle, which is incredibly invasive...

Truth About Plants Your feature, “listen to the local experts” contains an error that is not helpful for the birds and butterflies that try to live in northwest Michigan. Myrtle is not a native plant. The plant is also known as vinca and periwinkle...

Ask the Real Plant Experts This letter is written to express my serious concern about a recent “Listen To Your Local Experts” article where local nurseries suggested their favorite native plant. Three of the four suggested non-native plants and one suggested is an invasive and cause of serious damage to Michigan native plants in the woods. The article is both sad and alarming...

My Plant Picks In last week’s featured article “Listen to the Local Experts,” I was shocked at the responses from the local “experts” to the question about best native plant pick. Of the four “experts” two were completely wrong and one acknowledged that their pick, gingko tree, was from East Asia, only one responded with an excellent native plant, the serviceberry tree...

NOTE: Thank you to TC-based Eagle Eye Drone Service for the cover photo, taken high over Sixth Street in Traverse City.

Home · Articles · News · Books · Dream Brother: The Lives and Music...
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Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley Tops a List of Folk Lore

Nancy Sundstrom - August 1st, 2002
“My grandfather had a beautiful voice. Irish tenor. Beautiful. Too much of a military hardass to deal with his own and his son‘s talents. I wish it were otherwise. I love you, you poor b-------.... With a father like this man, it is no wonder that Tim Buckley was afraid to come back to me. So afraid to be my father. Because his only paradigm for fatherhood was a deranged lunatic with a steel plate in his head.... I know that he must have been scared s------- to think he might possibly become like his father. Scared s------- of treating me the way his father treated him and his family. Can you imagine the heartbreak? The useless, s----- torture day in, day out?“

-- Jeff Buckley, Journal Entry, August 9, 1995

A recent rediscovery of Tim Buckley’s blisteringly erotic 1972 album, “Greetings From L.A.“ reminded me that I was long overdue to read David Browne’s acclaimed biography from earlier this year of Buckley and his son, Jeff, whose 1997 death by drowning eerily mirrored Tim’s own demise of a drug overdose in 1975.
“Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley“ proved to be engrossing, well-researched, and haunting - a dual biography of a father and son who never really knew each other, but were clearly more similar than not.
Writer Browne had his work cut out for him in creating textured portraits of two emotionally complex human beings who were also influential, original musicians, let alone relatives. Though products of different generations, each was an immensely talented folk rock cult icon whose other trademarks included artistic sensitivity and startlingly good looks. They were also equally doomed, damaged, and destined to never reach their full potential.
Father Tim began the 1960s as a quintessential folk troubadour, but emerged from the decade as a musical pioneer and offstage bad boy who bucked systems, challenged every bit of authority he encountered, and pushed limits, especially when it came to matters of carnality and illegal substances. Buckley broke new musical ground with each project he tackled, and while his genius was recognized, commercial success evaded him, something that distressed and defeated him and perhaps encouraged his increasing reliance on drugs like heroin. Quite an accomplished womanizer, his failed first marriage produced a son, Jeff, with whom he never forged a relationship.
Son Jeff was seen as a lyrical poet whose 1994 album “Grace“ revealed that he had clearly inherited his father’s musical talent and ability to electrify an audience during live performances. Within short order, especially as he fought for privacy under the increasing glare of celebrity, he demonstrated that he also had Tim’s penchant for erratic behavior. He had come to Memphis to record his eagerly awaited second album when an undertow in the Mississippi River in which he was swimming took his life. He was 30-years-old, “just two years older than was the errant father whom Jeff rejected for rejecting him.“
The ironies of their lives, talents, and deaths are explored in great detail by Browne, who drew from interviews, many exclusive, with many of the closest associates of both men, as well as letters, journals, lyrics, and unreleased recordings. Particularly poignant is Jeff’s inability to avoid some of the same twisting, unpredictable roads traveled by his father, a man for whom he truly had deep and unresolved issues. At the heart of the story is their music, which in both cases, was always about searching, and was often as bittersweet as it was exhilarating.
If “Dream Brother“ is of interest, then so might be a few other selections, starting with the hot-off-the-presses “Wished for Song: A Portrait of Jeff Buckley“ by photographer Merri Cyr, which contains 160 pages of candid shots of the singer.
Another recommendation is a bit older, though most similar in nature - “Nick Drake“ by English journalist Patrick Humphries, who has also written acclaimed biographies of Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and Richard Thompson. The enigmatic Drake seems to have rediscovered lately when his lovely “Pink Moon“ song was used for a car commercial, and even though he released only three albums, he has long been credited as a seminal influence by artists such as REM, Elton John, and Paul Weller.
Depressed and anxious most of his life, which ended at age 26 in 1974, Drake, like Tim Buckley, died of an overdose. Humphries‘ chronicles Drake’s often bizarre life through exclusive interviews with friends, colleagues, and musicians who knew and worked with him, and while some of the anecdotes are jarring (such as Drake’s tendency to show up to perform in a highly inebriated state and make the most weird entrance he could), Humphries effectively evokes a place and time as he dissects what gave Drake’s music its power and beauty.
Lastly, “Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina, and Richard Farina“ by David Hajdu earned a spot on Amazon.com’s Best of 2001 list for its detailed, yet lyrical accounting of the wild Greenwich Village folk scene during the time that the foursome listed above were the reigning royalty.
Whether you’re a folk music fan or not, or a Dylan or Baez fan or not, this is one ripping good read, as the Brits say. Gossipy, provocative, and tragic in parts, this is a not-to-be-missed account of how four quite fabulous young people defined a bohemian lifestyle and sound, the likes of which haven’t been equaled since.

 
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