The 30 Jeff Buckley Quotes

When singer and songwriter Jeff Buckley died in 1997 at 30 years old, the world lost one of its great voices.

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Known today for his rendition of the Leonard Cohen song, “Hallelujah,” Buckley, who is the son of musician Tim Buckley, is much more. His 1994 album, Grace, is a classic, featuring songs like “Lover You Should’ve Come Over” and “Lilac Wine.”

[RELATED: 5 of the Best Lyrics Written by Jeff Buckley]

Born on November 17, 1966, Buckley passed away on May 29, 1997, in a mysterious drowning. At the time, he was in the middle of working on his next album, My Sweetheart the Drunk. One night he dove into the Mississippi river fully clothed, when he was caught in the wake of a passing boat. He was found days later on June 4.

While Buckley remains a legendary musical voice, one might wonder what the artist had to say about life and love, his craft, and the world at large outside of his music. Here are the 30 best Jeff Buckley quotes.

1. “I don’t know any artists that are really emotionally well adjusted. In fact, I think we’re all pretty much insane.”

2. “I just let the emotion dictate what the arrangement is.”

3. “Grace is a quality in people that I just enjoy. It’s a very human quality.”

4. “More than any other place, New York is where I felt I belonged. I prefer the Lower East Side to any place on the planet. I can be who I am there, and I couldn’t do that anywhere I lived as a child. I never fit in when I lived in California, even though that’s where my roots are.”

5. “Maybe someday, I’ll just make, like, a complete on-demand record that everybody wants to hear. But that would be impossible and, also, I just changed my mind. I don’t think I’ll ever do that.”

[RELATED: 25 Years After His Death, Jeff Buckley’s Mother, Mary Guibert, Talks About His Passing and Her Work With Road Recovery]

6. “I figured if I played in the no man’s land of intimacy, I would learn to be a performer.”

7. “Maybe I’m not a good enough artist that people just think of me. Maybe in the future, I’ll bloom into something that will just make people look at me for what I am.”

8. “I don’t choose the songs; the songs choose me.”

9. “The words come from here. From memories, from dreams, from people I’ve known. I’m always writing and reflecting on life. I want to suck it all in.”

10. “On my record cover, you can barely see my face. I still think I look really geeky.”

11. “I just think too much sometimes.”

12. “I disoriented myself from everything about being a human being and just played and played and played and sang and sang and sang.”

13. “The music business is the most childish business in the world. Nobody knows what they’re selling or why, but they sell it if it works.”

14. “Sensitivity isn’t being wimpy. It’s about being so painfully aware that a flea landing on a dog is like a sonic boom. I enjoy a lot of mystery.”

[RELATED: Behind The Song: Jeff Buckley, “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over”]

15. “I have a lot of my mother in me, but I was just born with the same parts as my father. I don’t sound like him. I mean, I can do an impression of him right now, and I do not sound like him. I sound like me. My sense of rhythm I learned from my mother. My melodies, I think sometimes, I get from my mother.”

16. “If you’re going to write, then write a novel with a Haitian woman in it and try and describe her accurately. When you can do that, you can write about people.”

17. “I once took a ride to the beach in L.A., and all along the shore there were all these so-called jazz places. And I saw these college guys and session players playing this fusion Muzak stuff. It was just a lot of notes, and the more notes they played, the more it kept them from expressing anything. So I came back home and got out my Zeppelin albums.”

18. “I sacrificed my anonymity for my father, whereas he sacrificed me for his fame.”

19. “I want to be ripped apart by music. I want it to be something that feeds and replenishes, or that totally sucks the life out of you. I want to be dashed against the rocks.”

20. “I became a human jukebox, learning all these songs I’d always known, discovering the basics of what I do. The cathartic part was in the essential act of singing. When is it that the voice becomes an elixir? It’s during flirting, courtship, and sex. Music’s all that.”

21. “You can tell everything from the eyes.”

22. “I don’t want my reputation to take me over, I just want to be judged on my songs. I want people to come and see me because they want to, not because fashion dictates it.”

23. “When I sing, my face changes shape. It feels like my skull changes shape… the bones bend.”

24. “In my early shows, I wanted to put myself through a new childhood, disintegrating my whole identity to let the real one emerge.”

25. “Critics try to pin so many different inaccuracies on me and my music; they look at the complicated things and try to simplify them. They think they can nail your whole life down just by knowing the bare bones of your history in partaking in 10 minutes of conversation.”

[RELATED: Super Rare Jeff Buckley Live Session Unearthed]

26. “What I’m trying to do is just sing what comes to my body in the context of the song. And if you go by the emotion of the song, it’s almost like stepping into a city. Cities have certain customs and rules and laws you can break, and that’s what I was doing.”

27. “There are times when what you do will be mysterious to everyone… times when you have to change directions before people are ready. Just because someone does something that critics don’t like or understand doesn’t mean you’re failing as a musician. It probably means you’re growing.”

28. “I am very observant of people’s character.”

29. “I don’t see people. I don’t see men and women at all. When I see them, I see… their mothers and fathers. I see how old they are inside. Like when I look at the president, or anybody in a record company, or a store owner, I may see a little boy behind the counter with the face of an old man. And that’s who I talk to.”

30. “The most audacious thing I could possibly state in this day and age is that life is worth living. It’s worth being bashed against. It’s worth getting scarred by. It’s worth pouring yourself over every one of its coals.”

Photo by David Tonge/Getty Images

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