by Conor Friedersdorf
A reader writes:
Hands down, it would be "Grace," from the late Jeff Buckley.
Back in 1994 when this album was released, I was, a month shy of 32 years old, still determined to make a career out of music. I'd had some success as a singer/songwriter, publishing a few songs for film/TV and being hired to sing on a few soundtracks and demos. I was pretty confident of my talents and believed I'd eventually catch my break. Initially, when Jeff's album came out, I was bowled completely over by Buckley's passion as a singer, lyricist, and guitarist. The album was my favorite guitar album of all time that did not feature any sort of a guitar solo.
As I listened more and more to the music, to Buckley's angelic voice, to the song structures, however, I slowly realized that, even after spending six months in 1994 and 1995 writing and recording the best songs I'd ever composed, I would never reach the level of talent he had. I developed serious doubts about my future in the business, and, while other factors (like the end of my first marriage) contributed to my decision to retire from music and make some real money, I cite "Grace" as the "one last nail" in the red glitter coffin in which my music career was finally laid to rest. But, since Buckley's death, I've gotten to see how his talent has been exploited (at first innocently by his bandmates and his own mother, but then cynically by impresarios like Simon Cowell who purchased the publishing rights for all versions of the song "Hallelujah"). That exploitation represented for me how disgusting the music business truly is and how, in hindsight, I feel fortunate to have walked away from it to do something else.