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Ten Years Gone, Jeff Buckley's Voice Lingers

Singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley died 10 years ago Tuesday.
Singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley died 10 years ago Tuesday.

Ten years ago Tuesday, singer/guitarist Jeff Buckley took an ill-fated swim in a Memphis harbor. At the time, he was a rising star, but in the years since, he's become something of an icon.

The son of another mysterious, big-voiced singer — Tim Buckley, who also died at an early age — Jeff Buckley released only one studio CD in his short lifetime. Called Grace, the 1994 album didn't sell very well at the time, but it influenced a generation of singers.

Fans of Grace include actor Brad Pitt, who has tried unsuccessfully to make a movie about Buckley's life. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin helped influence Buckley's music — they've called Grace one of the best albums of the past 20 years.

Ever since Buckley died at age 30 in 1997, he's been surprisingly prolific. Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk contains the songs he was working on when he died. Mystery White Boy captures his live sound, as did a concert DVD. His label released a box set of odds and ends, as well as deluxe editions of Grace and a set called Live at Sin-e. Just last week came So Real: Songs from Jeff Buckley, with career highlights from a man who released only one album before dying.

Fans view many of Jeff Buckley's songs as classics, but his signature track was a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Ten years to the day after his death, it sounds almost ghostly — a fitting statement for a singer who's still finding new fans from beyond the grave.

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Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.