The Masters of Musing

Touched By Grace: My Time with Jeff Buckley by Gary Lucas (Jawbone Press)

Über rock guitarist Gary Lucas's loving homage to his pupil Jeff Buckley is chock full of fascinating details and minutia that apparently doomed their creative coupling from the get-go. There is no question that they are two tremendously gifted individuals, and that by joining forces they added magic to the world. And it is also quite apparent, especially when you listen to the music they created together, that theirs was a partnership that should have afforded them both so much more. Had Mr. Buckley not taken his solo flight, leaving Mr. Lucas and their Gods & Monsters to soldier on without him, who knows what magic might have been created from their continued collaboration. 

At first glance some might misconstrue that Mr. Lucas and his tome are ego-tripping -- waxing poetic about his time spent with the venerated singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, son of the legendary and vastly superior singer-songwriter Tm Buckley, who both died way too young. But that is not so, Mr. Lucas is merely setting the record straight about his involvement with the young singer-songwriter's career and about his own critically lauded career. Ego is paramount for the super id to flourish and manifest in super-creative ways. And even more so for performing on the live stages -- whether theatrical or musical. For you see, Mr. Lucas and young Mr. Buckley could wow a crowd on a live stage. (Mr. Lucas continues to do so to this day.)

Knowing Mr. Lucas as well as I do, I can honestly say that his book is more about the journey of two creative souls and the roads they traveled -- both together and apart. It's as much a story about Gary and his career trajectory, too. And, it's the story about the master and student, the student who leaves the master, and ascends and then descends while the master can only look on and shake his head. An arduous journey that is full all of the pitfalls -- tears of joy and rage and confusion and hope and.... And in the end, it was, by Mr. Lucas's account and ours, as sad a way for Mr. Buckley's journey to end so abruptly. 

Drawn from diaries and writings of Mr. Lucas, this book details their first meeting and on-stage performance at St. Ann's Church in Brooklyn in 1992 for the Hal Wilner-produced homage to his estranged father Tim Buckley, right through their final awkward meeting and impromptu performance at the Knitting Factory five years later, perhaps Jeff on the cusp of superstardom. One can only imagine what might have been, if these two supremely talented musicians had continued making magic together.

As compelling a rock bio as you'll ever read and one that lets you gaze in wonder inside the mind of a genius guitarist, it is unequivocally well worth the read.