on 7 December 2001
I'm a little surprised at the reception "Dream Brother" has received on this page. Having just finished the book I came away extremely impressed. Browne has complied an incredibly detailed (and well written) account of the lives of both Jeff and Tim, and revealed aspects about both men's character I was not aware of before reading "Dream Brother".
Being a fan of Jeff slightly more than Tim, I particularly enjoyed his chapters. Jeff, as most fans will know, rarely gave interviews to the UK music press, and those he did always appeared very 'general', because as I understand it he always approached UK journalists with deep rooted suspicion.
So as Browne follows the events in his life from his late teenage years, right up to the recording of "Sketches..." he provides an insight into his character I had not before seen.
Ultimately I admire Browne for his treatment of both characters. I disagree that his account is sentimental, I most admired the book because Browne always appears to be non-judgemental. No one I think can deny that having read it, it is clear Jeff, for all his talent, was an incredibly frustrating individual who never seemed to settle on whether he should become the album releasing "proper" musician his friends and record label thought he should be (and knew he could be), and the kid just playing in the corner of the coffee bar that perhaps he wanted to be.
Neither man was perfect they had dark sides to their personalities that the people closest to them found frustrating and upsetting, and Browne (thankfully) does not hide this fact.
If you're a fan of Tim, Jeff or both. Buy this book.
on 22 August 2004
Out of the two Buckley's it was Jeff I bought this for and indeed atleast three fifths must be devoted to him. I haven't even heard any of Tim's music to be honest but the chapters on him are still interesting because he's Jeff's dad and some of their life choices and feelings towards the music industry, to my mind, were quite similar. I don't usually go in for biographies, I've never read one before, but there's something compelling about Jeff Buckley and I was interested to learn more about him. Obviously you have qualms about being nosy but the book was written with Mary Guibert's (Jeff's mother) blessing.
The book goes into the family tree on both sides, through Tim and Mary's romance and starting with Jeff's childhood right up until that fateful night in Memphis. Its detailed stuff and must have been quite a mountainous task for the author, but besides being very informative about Jeff, its also very telling about how the music industry works, I learnt a fair bit I didn't know. To conclude the book delivers what it aimed to, I especially like the way information is given but not always analysed, leaving the reader to their own conclusions. A fascinating read, but the latter part of the book based on Jeff's final days in Memphis isn't easy.
on 7 October 2005
Very insightful. I have never read an autobiography before. i prefer science fiction novels, but after hearing Grace and Dream brother by Jeff, (an artist that i had no idea existed till 3 months ago this year, 8 years after his death), I just had to know more about him.
This book helped fill in the blanks. Not only about Jeff but Tim as well, whose music i have also been appreciating since reading this book.
This book is well written and gives an interesting account of the Buckley's world.
It is not for Buckley fans only, i think anyone would find this book interesting (but then i am a Buckley fan so it is difficult to say otherwise).
I must admit though there were so many music references, and alot of the time mainly with the bands mentioned during Tim buckley's era i was left thinking...who?
I like the way it is structured, following both of their lives, Buckley per chapter, it makes it easy to follow as well as allowing to make your own conclusions about how similar father and son were.
Great stuff, thanks David Browne!
on 24 April 2001
I have always wondered why a writer for Entertainment Weekly was given the royal blessing to do this book (I still wonder). Someone with similar talents to the Buckleys, word and otherwise, might have worked harder at transcending the experience that is Jeff, and Tim, life like and playing music, and like all great biography writers, would have "taken you there" with their words, aura, and anecdote. Because their music transcended like few others and that did not happen in this book. Browne got such unusual and dramatic authorization to read Jeff's journals and had access to many, (but not all) of so many close to Jeff, you wonder why it had to be the portions of a persons private diaries that were the saving grace of this book. But then, that's why we love Jeff: the one and only in music and words. After Jeff's mother and Tim's ex-wife Mary Guibert got wind that the book was not well liked, she promised to pen her own, which we all look forward to. Despite this ones short length and uneeded shared bio status, the book was saved by the insight given into the father-son relationship, music and otherwise, which was heart warming, intelligent, and even hilarious, completely Jeff, completely from his journals. Who wouldn't love to read a entire book written by the man himself? I'll be saying and thinking it sucks forever...as I know we all will, especially those who were close to him. But some have critiqued this for being the dual biography of Jeff and his dad, the magnificent & talented Tim, and used even Jeff's own words to defend that view. A reprint diary excerpt was used and seemed out of place in the Sketches posthumus release artwork that said something to that effect. Which is why I believe Browne used primarily Tim-music reference quotes from Jeff, to cement what few realized, that seemingly, Tim was a true music mentor to him. If you couldn't hear it in Jeff's daring, you could read about it here. Their talents were indeed symmetrical. And you could read about forgiveness, understanding and "grace" in the words he wrote about Tim. So...for the effort, the subject(s), and for being brave enough to use the words of the departed with respect, and even daring to write this book for primarily a small group of vigilant fans, I give this book ___ thumbs, ___ stars. I think that once we pass, journals written become the mediator in all things spoken in our past, and give the living insight into the lives of lost loved and admired ones, and anyone who's passed gains that knowledge too. I have a hard time believing Jeff would be angry about the journals. And I hope this book becomes a bare-bones roadmap for further books, twins or not, about Jeff /or/ and Tim, and I hope it uses a million more quotes from Jeff (and Tim), dozens more pictures, hundreds more words from a wider circle of people who knew the two, and infinitely more stylistic interaction from the writer. I got into Tim's music after hearing Jeff. When you hear it you can trace the greatest music of our time that he inspired, and then journey to a music classroom and hear Tim's influences; the African, Indian, Jazz, Opera, Classical and Scat roots that Jeff embraced as well. The sooner people realize how amazing Tim is (not just Jeff), the sooner they start rocking and begin to understand the obsession felt by son and fan. Like all that leave us cursing death, their works should inspire the inspired to be as alive, daring and searching as they were. Bravo, we miss you both forever.
on 10 December 2000
David Browne himself admits that Jeff B would have hated this book. This is because it recasts the very jeff-tim associations that jeff B fought so hard to avoid. So here we have Browne's format jeff chapter-tim chapter-jeff chapter-tim chapter and so on. Browne's defense of course is that you can't understand jeff without putting his life in the context of his (biological) father's. Still I think this could have been done without having a 'dual biography' and the front cover image is just plain ridiculous. I also think a lot on Jeff B was excluded. This is a very American centred perspective. Considering that Jeff B spent a significant proportion of 1994-1996 in Europe and Australia, there are very few stories from this. I think that there wasn't any need to tell Tim B's story, it's been done before, taking this out would have left more room for his (biological) son. So one consequence of Browne's USA perspective is that he misses important aspects. One example will suffice: although Jeff's Meltdown performance is mentioned, he neglects to mention Jeff's cover of Dido's lament by Purcell, which arguably was one of Jeff B's most astounding artistic moments. However, since Jeff B's music was/is so important on a personal level I was compelled to read this and did so in a day. So it was interesting on a factual level, though I don't think I really learned too much new. I found the last few pages somehow unsatisfactory, and my opinion is that only those who were especially close to Jeff B (JW, MT, RM) are really in a position to write about him in a way that would communicate to others... I for one am not happy to seal off Jeff B's legacy in lazy notions like 'fate' and 'destiny'. Sometimes adverse life experiences give way to people who can seemingly fly and shine unlike any others. Sometimes coincidences happen, and that's all they are....
on 19 November 2003
This book really delivers on information on Both Tim and Jeff Buckley, so even if you are only into the music of either one, the way it is written helps you get a wider insight into both. I love the diary entries from Jeff that are in some way included to make little mirrors to Tim. It is a book that once picked up is truly impossible to put down!Beautifully and carefully considered writing that feels honest.
on 12 December 2000
After reading David Browne's book, I was left with the impression that all these people who surrounded Jeff Buckley had no idea who he was or how sick he was. He needed help, serious help and everyone -- from people who were friends with him to the record company and management, had no clue how to deal with this person who had a lot of pain and never really dealt with it. The book doesn't mention whether Jeff actually had some therapy done, if anyone pushed for Jeff to get some help, and the book doesn't seem to go into much depth as to who this Jeff Buckley was. There are no indepth readings of his journal, just bits and pieces, fragments. It's mentioned he reflected everything and everyone around him -- which would happen when one has a loss of self. The book is amiss of what happened to him in Los Angeles -- it's sketchier than Tim Buckley's bio part, which is a surprise, knowing that Jeff's history is more recent than Tim's. I was left with the impression that Jeff was having a nervous breakdown, a serious one, and that no one was equipped or aware enough or cared enough to commit Jeff or do what needed to be done to help him and have him confront his inner demons.
It is said Jeff joked about tortured souls yet the one light this book shed showed that Jeff seemed to follow his father's steps in every chapter. And that his tortured good looks brought about his downfall -- everyone seemed so charmed by him in the book that no one helped him. His physical appearance during the final months screamed help yet no one seemed to be really listening -- not even his lovers, apparently. All we see are people being or getting uncomfortable with him and walking away towards the end, like they could smell death coming and they were too alive to get sucked in. What I also found interesting is that despite Jeff's claim that he did not want to be compared to Tim his father, he was drawn to anyone or anything that was related in some way shape or form to Tim. Jeff would go after it. Jeff never fully grieved for his father and his one outlet, music, was his release. When his music became "work", he started to dry up and his one outlet, his one lifeline, started to choke him.
The picture of his life with his mother was dramatically toned down. Although some of it was written up, there is the fact his mother had some say in this book, which makes me wonder how much was left out. We will never really know. All we have are his own references from various interviews of stuff that happened that he would sort of mention. His childhood, one of constant uprooting (clothes literally thrown into a paper bag for god's sakes!) and shuffling around with various father figures that came and went with a mercurial immature mother was something that would certainly have a lot to do with why Jeff turned out the way he did. Jeff was basically left to raise himself with the knowledge he was basically abandoned by his father who didn't love his mother enough and had deep emotional wounds from both parents that were left unattended and left to fester for years. I grieve that Jeff never got a chance to have some peace on this earth -- and I'm angry too! This world will miss the talent he had. I don't think Jeff committed suicide out in the Mississippi waters but I can't help but think that if the tide sucked him under, he wasn't going to fight it.
This book taught me some very valuable lessons -- get therapy, grieve til you pass out, and find yourself. Get strong enough to get rid of people or distance yourself from those who only hurt you even if they are your own parents. Make a binding will so that the estate doesn't fall into the wrong hands. And thank your lucky stars if you have people around you who TRULY care. It made me grateful that I was able to forgive my parents for their f-kups. Otherwise, I would've destroyed myself.
This book also brings to mind the mystery of how some manage to triumph over their childhood traumas while others do not. You got old before your time. Rest in peace, Jeff.
on 1 February 2010
Clearly David Browne has done his homework, interviewing many sources and digging up lots of information. Lots of people are being quoted and one feels that the author has done a thorough job. But it does not make for a great book.
The book starts off intruigingly with an account of the last hours of Jeff up to his unfortunate drowning. After that, Browne presents us the lives of Tim and Jeff in alternating chapters, which can be defended on the grounds that it's conceptually nice and that there are obvious similarities between their lives.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work really well. The similarities are mostly to be found in looks, voice and the way the music business strangled them. To me it seems that father Tim had a more solid personality with a far greater artistic vision, whereas Jeff left us with one great album but with no definite image of himself and his vision - as is exemplified by the fact that Jeff appeared to be a different person to different associates. Furthermore, as Tim produced some 9 albums and Jeff only 1 (not taking into account the posthumous releases) the author condenses Tim's story and stretches Jeff's story to give both men an equal amount of pages - and I must confess that I got a bit bored with the last and drawn-out "Jeff" part of the book with characters flying in and out like pigeons.
Another criticism one can level at the book is the rather mild way the author treats one of the key persons - mother of Jeff, Mary Guibert. I wouldn't be surprised that her inability to give Jeff a stable home environment had a far greater impact on his personality than his father's absence (though I do not wish to condone Tim's absence from his son's life) and that her resentment towards Tim is such that she would have him dropped from history altogether to be replaced by her son - it is clear that she's doing everything to keep Jeff's "cult image" going, much to Jeff's annoyance when he was still alive.
Mr Bowne has done a thorough, though not entirely satisfying job in capturing both men's life (rather than music) on paper. It's not a definitive biography but not having read other biographies I'm still glad to have purchased it - it leaves me rueing the lives of two musically extremely gifted people and the impact "the system" has on any artist that can reach such extraordinary heights like Tim's "Starsailor" - his masterpiece that's been out of print for years.
Almost certainly the only book likely to combine the biographies of both subjects, the author deserves great credit for tracking down while still alive many of Tim Buckley's associates involved with his career before his early death at an even younger age than Jeff's subsequent early death. However this is largely a Jeff driven biography with greater coverage (easily 60% of the book) of his life and career and as the author makes clear in the Preface a man he was clearly impressed by on first meeting.
Which is ultimately why I found the book although a great coverage and collection of facts on both careers a tad disappointing in its analysis and balance. Tim's much greater and varied recorded output over several releases while not a consistently great success on release due in large part to his truculent personal attitudes with fans and the music business generally has always had a hard core of fans (as Jeff discovered to his cost) plus has attracted new fans over the years. In fact the lighter coverage of Tim's life leads to a better analysis of what worked and what didn't and while the book strives for the links with his son's subsequent career it is quite evident that the man for all his living on the edge approach whether in music, relationships or drink and drugs was very self centred and followed his own muse and his career was always going to end painfully if not as tragically as it ultimately did.
Jeff by contrast seems to have a biographical treatment out of all proportion to his real contribution - we get endless personal life details for a man who only had one official release and even that was limited in its success. While he may have been the darling of the music media, his career up to his death by drowning was anything but stellar. As with Tim but even more so based on the detail presented here, it is painfully evident that if Jeff had ever been super successful the odds are he would probably have struggled to deal with it and to handle and maintain the success.
Suffering the same "hands off" style personal management as his dad, though in a very much harder musical marketplace 20 years later and a record company Columbia who had convinced itself when they signed him that they were dealing with a long term legacy artiste like Dylan or Springstein, what the guy seems to have badly needed is a very strong manager or mentor who would have challenged and guided his career better. Given his own inability to make hard decisions (his continual surrounding himself with amateur musicians he felt comfortable with rather than pros who would stretch him being the probably most fatal plus his approach to recording and video production) the benefit of someone who could talk to and face him down as needed in keeping a sense of reality comes over increasingly as the story unfolds.
The other reason for the 4 stars is that I must admit over 300 plus pages David Browne's writing style does come across as very dry and matter of fact with little real insight or analysis provided. The lack of a full discography for both artistes at the end (especially given both but Jeff especially given his limited life time output have suffered a number of posthumous releases) would also have been welcome.
on 2 January 2008
This is the book that Jeff Buckley, presumably, would have hated. Not because he is any way defamed in it, but because it reproduces the father-son comparisons that always dogged and irritated him during his lifetime. He probably wouldn't have been too chuffed either about the printed excerpts from his unpublished journal that appear in the book: he was after all a fervently private person (when diehard fans got too close to him after a show and he could feel the heat of their obsession, he would scream, "This is my private life! I'm not on TV - I'm a person!").
Writing a combined biography of Tim Buckley (1947-1975) and Jeff Buckley (1966-1997) does seem something of a cynical marketing ploy, considering author David Browne has so little good to say about Tim and is almost hagiographically positive about Jeff. Having one chapter on Tim and the next on Jeff is also slightly disorientating: just when we are becoming embedded in tales of Tim's prodigal productivity or womanising, we are thrown forward into Jeff's story, to friends who say he was "insanely vulnerable" and bandmates who recall him being a perfectionist in the studio. But, like other reviewers have written, it's a start: hopefully this dual biography can serve as a springboard for in-depth individual biographies in the time to come.
Both Buckleys have posthumously become icons: Tim as a 1960s cult figure, a folk-jazz trailblazer who made 9 albums before dying of an accidental heroin overdose at 28; and Jeff as a 1990s haunted romantic with an astonishing vocal range who tragically followed his father into an early grave, drowning accidentally aged 30, with much of his immense promise untapped. In Browne's book, Tim comes across as traumatised (his father was a WW2 veteran with a ferocious and violent temper) as well as traumatising (he abandoned his wife Mary when she was pregnant with Jeff and only made guest appearances in his son's life). Tim had sought refuge with Mary - they had bonded over stories of their abusive fathers - but marriage soon became constricting for him and he broke out to pursue his career with less "distractions" (he released his first LP two days after his son's birth). Tim seemed to have contradictory feelings about his childhood (telling one interviewer that his father was a "brilliant man") as well as being more generally contradictory, suggesting a personality in conflict (he could be "alternately cocky and self-pitying" according to those in the music business at that time). Browne cannot muster much praise for his now classic early folk-rock albums; even Goodbye and Hello which some regard as his masterpiece is for Browne "sometimes overbaked and too ornate" with lyrics that are "too pretentious or cloying".
Unsurprisingly the son who Tim Buckley steadfastly and inexplicably neglected in his lifetime grew up to be conflicted (guitarist Lee Underwood tries to argue that "[Tim] did not abandon Jeff; he abandoned Mary", but I think few would agree). If his father tended to be misogynistic (screaming at one woman, "What problems can you have? You're a woman!"), his son embraced his feminine side (telling his then girlfriend Joan Wasser, for example, that she was the more masculine in their relationship). Shuttled between his grandparents and his mother who had a series of relationships with forceful, seemingly unsuitable men (one of whom was married at the time), Jeff's childhood was nothing if not unstable. Neither Mary nor Jeff was invited to Tim's funeral or to the scattering of his ashes at sea (his widow Judy Buckley rather bizarrely says, "There was a lot of confusion...It was simply a mistake"). Jeff became understandably deeply ambivalent about the father he never really knew: going into the same business, whilst denying his influence; disparaging most of his father's music, whilst singing in a similar, high octave tone and appearing as a key act at his tribute concert; insisting that his father's early death had scant impact on him, whilst telling Joan Wasser in his final days that "My blood is cursed". The mystery of his death - drowning in the Wolf River in Memphis after going for an early evening swim with his clothes and boots on, having taken no illegal drugs and having very little alcohol in his system - is not resolved here (although Browne suggests he must have been unconscious as the currents pulled him under, since so little fighting for life could be heard). Photographer and friend Merri Cyr says, "I don't think he felt he could fight his fate". As we hurtle towards the premature deaths of both Jeff and Tim in the closing chapters, Browne's book becomes unmistakably saddening.
Many readers might have wished for deeper insights and a greater attempt to access and re-create the thoughts and feelings of these two very mythic characters. Rather, the author has cobbled together hundreds of interviews and impressions of people who knew them and woven in song lyrics and 19 black-and-white photographs. As Jeff's last girlfriend told Browne after her interview with him: "Good luck figuring him out".