1960s singer and songwriter Buckley grew from local roots
The 1960s singer-songwriter Tim Buckley spent his early years in Amsterdam and Fort Johnson.
According to author David Browne, Buckley was born in Washington, but the family moved back to Amsterdam soon thereafter.
The singer’s grandfather — also named Tim Buckley — had moved to Amsterdam from Ireland in the early 1900s. The elder Buckley and Frank Graff briefly operated an auto repair shop at 14 Mechanic St. called Buckley and Graff. Buckley and his wife, Charlotte, lived at 49 Mechanic St., and Buckley later tended bar on Mechanic Street.
Son Tim Jr., whose nickname was Buck, was born in 1916. Tim Jr. worked at the Strand movie theater, then on East Main Street, and later at Bigelow Sanford Carpet Co.
Browne said, “In 1942, Tim Junior was drafted and served in the Screaming Eagles in Europe, receiving a Purple Heart but also a head injury that resulted in a head plate, and many psychological problems, like thinking he was still in the war decades later.
“Tim Buckley — the singer, also known as Timothy Charles Buckley III — was born in the District of Columbia (on Valentine’s Day in 1947), where his father stayed after World War II.”
Tim Jr., his wife, Elaine Scalia Buckley, and their son moved back to Amsterdam and lived on Garden Street. Tim Jr. worked for General Electric. Elaine was a Miles Davis, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra fan who introduced young Tim III to jazz recordings.
Browne said, “In 1955, the family moved to Fort Johnson. When Tim III was in second grade, the family moved again — this time to Southern California, where Tim Buckley’s music career began to take root, resulting in a string of albums and tours between 1966 and his death in 1975.”
Browne is a music and entertainment critic. His 2001 book, “Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley,” was published by Harper Collins.
Tim III’s first album in 1966 was mainly folk. Later, he incorporated jazz, psychedelia, funk, soul and a sound in which his voice was used as an instrument. He did not find commercial success, but Buckley is admired for his musical innovation and vocal ability.
His song “Blue Melody” had the following lyric, “I was born a blue melody. A little song my mam sang to me. Such a blue you’ve never seen.”
“Long after his death,” said California high school friend and lyricist Larry Beckett, “I realized that there were very few songs he wrote that didn’t have the word ‘home’ in them. It seemed like he felt homeless, and nothing would restore it.”
Jim Fielder, another California high school friend, recalled his reaction to Buckley’s voice: “One hesitates to get flowery but the words ‘gift from God’ sprung to mind.”
Tim III died at age 28 in 1975 of an apparent heroin and morphine overdose in Santa Monica, Calif. His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
A companion, Richard Keeling, a music assistant at UCLA, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for providing the heroin and served 120 days in jail following Buckley’s death.
Tim III had a son named Jeff, according to author Brown, who also became a musician in the 1990s.
“Jeff Buckley, who grew up barely knowing his father and being resentful of it, himself died in 1997 from drowning in Memphis, near the Mississippi River. A sad story, almost a Greek tragedy.”
Reader Charles Frank of Niskayuna suggested a column on singer Tim Buckley. Frank said Tim Buckley was an influential musician in numerous genres, “He seems to have had a five octave range to his voice and liked to show it.”
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.