Letters

Letters 12-14-2014

Come Together There is a time-honored war strategy known as “divide and conquer,” and never has it been more effective than now. The enemy is using it against us through television, internet and other social media. I opened a Facebook account a couple of years back to gain more entries in local contests. Since then I had fallen under its spell; I rushed into judgment on several social issues based on information found on those pages

Quiet The Phones! This weekend we attended two beautiful Christmas musical events and the enjoyment of both were significantly diminished by self-absorbed boors holding their stupid iPhones high overhead to capture extremely crucial and highly needed photos. We too own iPhones, but during a public concert we possess the decency and manners to leave them turned off and/or at home. Today’s performance, the annual Messiah Sing at Traverse City’s Central Methodist Church, was a new low: we watched as Mr. Self-Absorbed not only took several photos but then afterwards immediately posted them to his Facebook page. We were dumbfounded.

A Torturous Defense In defense of the C.I.A.’s use of torture in a mostly fruitless search for vital information, some suggest that the dire situation facing us after 9-11, justified the use of torture even at the expense of the potential loss of much of our nation’s moral authority.

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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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