Jeff Buckley is one of the acclaimed musicians of the 20th century. He was born on 17th November, 1966 at Anaheim, California (Browne, 2002, p.13). His father was also a legendary musician of the 1960s. His father Tim Buckley was an American vocalist and musician, whose main genre was folk, but he also incorporated other genres, like soul, jazz and funk. Jeffery Scott Buckley’s main genres were folk, rock and alternative rock. He started his career as a guitarist, performing background vocals for other artists.
Jeff Buckley had a passion for music, mostly playing his guitar for various bands, such as dancehall reggae artist “Shine Head” and other bands that did rock, roots and heavy metal. It was not until his father’s former manager, Herb Cohen, who took him on, that he finally met his big break into the music world. They recorded a demo tape “Babylon Dungeon Sessions” aimed at attracting attention of the music industry.
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He performed through many live shows, such as the “Greetings from Tim Buckley,” which he said he used to pay tribute to his father. He collaborated with artist Gary Lucas to produce hit songs “Grace” and “Mojo pin”. Jeff performed for a while with Lucas’ band “Gods and Monsters” in New York before debuting to a solo career in 1992 (Browne, 2002, p. 123). He performed for a while around lower Manhattan earning a slot for performance on Mondays, in an Irish café in April 1992. He performed a wide range of songs ranging from folk, rock, jazz, blues and even original songs from “Babylon Dungeon Sessions”. Jeff Buckley earned repute as a top performer, attracting big crowds. This finally led him to earn a recording deal at Columbia records.
The result was a hit album “Grace” that contained hit songs, such as “Lilac Wine”, “Corpus Christi Carol”, “Hallelujah” and “By Time”. The album catapulted him to perform on various platforms on top of taking tours to promote this other works, around the United States and Europe.
“Dream Brother” is the last single in the album “Grace”. It is written by the singer himself, Jeff Buckley with the help of Matt Johnson and Mick Grondahl (Browne 2002, p. 174). It is one of the captivating songs from a wonderful singer and musician. It is believed to be one of the last master piece works from him before his demise in a drowning accident in Memphis, Tennessee. He was waiting for his band to arrive to record the second album, when he decided to take a swim in the wolf river harbor. He was hit by a boat and he drowned. Nevertheless, the single “Dream Brother” has remained the favorite for many people over time, receiving controversial interpretations to its lyrics.
The song’s lyrics are one of the superb works by the writer. They use a lot of imagery to pass its message and provide music single that entertains immensely (Pence, 2012, p. 177). The song starts with imagery of a child sleeping near his twin. All of a sudden, the picture of calm beautiful sleep goes wild. He creates the picture of a wild wind blowing; destroying the calm serenity of the two twin children sleeping.
He creates a picture of a dark angel over the two twin children, with his next line in the lyrics of the song. Her black wings are hovering over them, foreboding danger and bad luck. The dark angel watching over them is a foreshadowing of an unfortunate event that is about to happen. Dark angels are associated with bad luck; this further destroys the picture of the calm serenity of the two children sleeping.
In the next line, he describes an individual losing the love of a woman. The individual leaves the woman, letting the love they shared go to waste. This is described by the line “is free with the wind in the butterscotch hair”. The writer of the lyrics uses a lot of imagery as shown by this description of free love in the wind over the woman’s hair, which he describes as butterscotch. The second verse of lyrics of the song is dedicated to describing the wonderful woman whose love the individual is letting go.
In this second verse, he describes a woman with green eyes, blowing a goodbye kiss to the male individual as he leaves. He shows the unfaithfulness of the male individual through lines like “and your kiss on the lips of another”. This shows how the individual has let the love of the female depicted in the song go to the wind. The woman is portrayed as giving unconditional love to the individual, but he is unfaithful and goes round with other women. He shows how the male individual will regret and suffer in the end in the last line of the second verse. The tears he will shed as he goes around the world depict the suffering he will undergo by letting the love of the woman go.
The third verse of the song starts on a warning note to the dream brother. He warns of his dream brother not to follow the example of the one who caused much heartache and suffering in his life. He warns him not to leave the child and the woman who loves him behind. This is shown by the imagery “don’t be like the ones who left behind his name”. He depicts the suffering the child and mother will undergo by him leaving and never coming back.
The fourth verse shows the closeness the writer and singer share with his dream brother. He shows that he knows his pain, fright, voice and joy. The verse establishes the closeness between the two as they are mostly together. He shows the fun that the two usually have as they go dancing and through the line “your eyes to the ground and your world spinning forever”. He shows the disillusionment in his friend’s life and the non-ending drama in his life through the imagery of him sleeping in the sand on a beach as the ocean tides wash back and forth.
The lyrics of the song end with challenging him to think hard and reorganize his life. He challenges him to think about the ones who love him and take the right decision. The song ends spectacularly, by Jeff Buckley urging him to dream as he lies on the sand and the ocean washes onto the land and back again.
The lyrics of the song have been given many controversial interpretations. The most common interpretation for the lyrics is that Jeff Buckley was warning a close friend Chris Dowd, currently leader of the seedy Arkhestra, not to leave his pregnant girlfriend. He tells him the suffering he underwent by his father leaving him and his mother.
His father had left them and he says that he saw him only once and never even attended his funeral. The lyrics show the excesses in his friend’s life. He shows of the unfaithfulness, the partying and abuse of substance in his life. He warns him that he will come to regret leaving his child and girlfriend behind.
The lyrics are well structured, with a strong message not only to his dream friend, but also to the audience of the song. The music has pop feel and has the one part song structure also known as AAA structure (Davis, 1985, p.32). This type of structure is common in folk music, which was one of the genres Jeff Buckley mostly employed in his songs. The one part song structure does not employ the use of verses or bridges in it. It mostly several verses combined to form the song. The song however, employs the use of a refrain, where lines or words are used repeatedly to give the song musicality.
Jeff Buckley employs this structure in this masterpiece “dream brother”. There is neither chorus nor a bridge in the lyrics of the song. The song has seven verses that are fused together to form the song. He however, uses refrains like “asleep in the sand with the ocean washing over” and “dream brother” to give the song memorablity and musicality. The song is truly a wonderful creation by a wonderful song writer and musician.
The common instrumentation employed by Jeff Buckley, is the guitar and his vocals. He and his band usually employed the use of bands, piano and guitars to play their songs. In this song “Dream Brother,” he employs the use of a guitar and his superb vocals (Apel, 1973, p. 413). He was a great guitarist learning to play it at just five years old. Jeff Buckley has nice vocals in most of his songs, especially this song which marked the end of his career. Jeff had perfected his skills as a guitarist and performer during his solo career days at the Irish café in lower Manhattan.
“Dream Brother” and the album “Grace” in general are truly great and wonderful works by a great artist. His works will still remain the favorites of many, in appreciation for well structured, superb vocals, great instrumentation and great performances by Jeff Buckley.