Perfect Songs – “Be Your Husband” by Jeff Buckley

I had known about Jeff Buckley since 1997 when I met him at my college’s annual spring concert. The weather was unseasonably cold and Jeff had been prevailed upon by some friends of mine to come to Conway from Memphis where he was working on the followup to his now-classic album, Grace. I wish I could remember the occasion better, but at the time I was busy working as stage crew. I remember the guy had a unique voice, but that’s about it. A few months later I read that he had drowned.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I even picked up a copy of Grace, and then everything else. I won’t go on about the talent we lost in Jeff, or the incredible influence he’s had on just about every rock vocalist since about 1999. I’ll just say that while I very much enjoyed his work, it wasn’t until the two-disc Live At Sin-é legacy edition was released in 2003 that I realized just what we had in Jeff. His a cappella version of Nina Simone’s “Be My Husband,” in which he naturally adjusts the possessive adjectives to “Be Your Husband,” sets the tone: you hear the patrons of the cafe chattering and clinking their glasses as Jeff sets up and starts stomping and clapping. By two minutes in, the place is dead quiet as Jeff calls forth the ghosts of Parchman Farm, conjuring spirits to be his backing vocalists. What he did, I was not previously aware humans could do.

His chops as a soul vocalist established, he opens disc two with a verbatim rendition of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s “Yeh Jo Halka Halka Saroor Hai” and immediately you’re hit with the realization that this is not merely some white boy who knows his Memphis R&B. This is a musical traveler with bigger ears than anyone his age has any right to have. In between songs, he reveals himself further to be a complete dork, talking about the radio, Nusrat, beverages, poking fun at CBGBs, and whatever else pops into his head. In doing so, he shows his allegiance to the ranks of The Uncool by admitting to a variety of enthusiasms, thus shearing him of any facade of Cool (because cool people, as everyone knows, are perpetually bored). He becomes no longer the packaged product of a record label, hair perfectly mussed and guitar slung low[1]. He’s just Jeff, the guy for whom Nusrat is Elvis, a guy with boundless potential whose artistic voice is still under construction. It’s one of the only times on a record that I’ve ever felt like I was getting to know a real person.

>> Download Be Your Husband (Live) or Live At Sin-é (Legacy Edition) at

As a small tribute to Jeff and to this song, I hastily assembled this video a few years ago using public domain footage from I hadn’t looked at it in awhile; it’s got 80,000 views. Neato.

1.) 10 years passed between the EP version and the two-disc legacy edition, which makes me wonder if this sort of thing could only have been released posthumously, when Columbia Records had less of an investment in the persona of “Jeff Buckley.”

Perfect Songs – “World Spins Madly On” by The Weepies

Sometimes a song arrives in your life at an important moment and is forever elevated in your mind by the association. These are the soundtrack songs, playing underneath the movies we like to pretend our lives are. Very often we come back to those songs years later and realize they’re as immature and embarrassing as we were at the time. Only rarely does a song live up to its moment in time and still withstand scrutiny years on as something that not only witnessed our growth but perhaps even contributed to it.

This is one of those songs.

Somewhere I heard the story that Deb Talan and Steve Tannen were each singer-songwriters who were fans of each other’s before they met. When they did meet, they began playing together and eventually married. It’s the story every musician would die to have come true. So it’s an impressive feat, then, that The Weepies can still write some deeply sad songs.

“World Spins Madly On” was my soundtrack song for the first few months of my New York residency. I had just started a job at an ad agency that had provided me with more stress than I’ve ever experienced. Adapting to life in a large ad agency in a massive city, living in a shoebox apartment, working from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on an impossible project…I just felt empty inside. I felt the hope of something new, the anxiety of the unknown, and the fear of failure. This song regularly accompanied me from the subway at 14th street to Union Square to the office and back again. It functioned as a constant reminder that I was not alone in my particular suffering, and it hinted that my loneliness might even be so commonplace as to be unremarkable. The song never quite despairs; it sits suspended in judgment and in time, as the whole world keeps moving while I’m standing still. It remains a song that never wears out its welcome. It’s so good it doesn’t even need my emotional attachment to it to give it weight.

>> Download the song World Spins Madly On (Album Version) or the album Say I Am You at