26 Years of Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’

On this day over a quarter of a century ago, the legendary songwriter released his first and only album. Find out what made it one of the greatest releases of all time.

Consistently ranked as one of the greatest albums ever made and only gaining more momentum with the passing of time, Jeff’s Buckley’s debut album, Grace, has become a staple album in households across the globe. 

The only release by the songwriter before his premature death in 1997, Grace shaped the rock scene in a way not previously seen. Although now held in the highest regard by fans and critics alike, it is difficult to comprehend the fact that, upon its release, the album failed to gather the same reception as it has now. 

Written and released in 1994, the now-revolutionary album seemed to get lost amid other releases at the time. Despite favourable acclaim from multiple publications, Grace initially failed to capture the attention of the public- resulting in poor album sales and peaking at just 149 in the US Charts. 

An album inspired by a multitude of different artists, Buckley incorporated a varied range of styles in Grace to actively defy easy categorisation. A self-proclaimed hybrid of artists including Led Zeppelin, Edith Piaf, Bad Brains and Nina Simone, the album rejected constrictive notions of genre and the expectations of his music ‘should have’ sounded like. 

The reasoning behind this was that the musician was actively trying to distance himself from the comparisons to his estranged father, Folk musician, Tim Buckley. Deviating away from the country sound, Grace was instead inspired by Jeff Buckley’s musical inspirations during childhood. From classic rock legends including Queen, Jimi Hendrix and The Who, to prog-rock inspirations from his adolescent years, Rush and Genesis, and finally the Jazz Fusion guitarist, Al Di Meola, the debut album immediately established Buckley as an artist with both the originality and longevity to set him apart from other artists in the scene. 

However, this creative risk to refuse easy categorisation initially failed to pay off. Taking just six weeks to record, the album only began to galvanise commercial success posthumously, receiving little radio airplay during the time that Buckley was alive. 

Now, finally beginning to acquire the celebration and praise it was originally deserving, it was only over recent years that the album as been catapulted into the limelight. Gradually gaining recognition over the period since the songwriter died, the success of Grace now is unrecognisable in comparison to the time in which it was released.

Back in 2005, eight years after Buckley’s tragic death and over a decade since its initial release, Q Magazine ranked the album at number thirteen on its countdown of the ‘Greatest Albums of All Time’. Similarly, in 2006, Mojo listed the album as the ‘Best Modern Rock Classic of All Time’ and in NME’s ‘Best Albums Ever’ poll, over 40,000 people worldwide voted Grace as Number twenty-three on the list.

Recognised in the current day as a heart-rending album of passion, isolation and loss, the album has become one of the most purchased albums of all time; earning its title of a ‘household essential’. Selling over two million copies sold globally and certified seven times platinum in Australia, Grace has also received extensional acclaim from famous names across the globe. 

Held in high regard by some of the biggest names in Hollywood, Grace has had its praises sung by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Buckley’s greatest influence. This was seen as vocalist, Robert Plant, spoke highly of the album and, guitarist, Jimmy Page claimed Grace to be one of his favourite albums of the decade. Moreover, famous faces including Brad Pitt, David Bowie and Bob Dylan have all spoken openly regarding the release- celebrating Buckley as one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

Despite the anxieties of being associated with his estranged father and the minimal airplay during its release, Jeff Buckley’s first and only complete album has, over time, come to shape the music industry as a whole. Although never living to see the paramount success of Grace, the songwriter’s legacy lives on as the album continues to sell exponentially around the globe and inspire a magnitude of aspiring musicians for decades to come.

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