BOOK REVIEW: “Grace: Based on the Jeff Buckley Story” – A Graphic Novel by Tiffanie DeBartolo

Grace: Based on the Jeff Buckley Story is a collaboration from author Tiffanie DeBartolo, graphic artists Pascal Dizin and Lisa Resit, and the Jeff Buckley estate. Inspired in part by archival materials provided by Buckley’s mother, Mary Guibert, the book traces Buckley’s life from his participation in his late father’s tribute concert to his inspiration to move to New York to pursue a career as a songwriter and performer to his untimely death in Memphis, Tennessee. This isn’t an ordinary biography. For one, it’s a graphic novel. But, it’s more about the spirit of Buckley and his becoming an internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter.

What makes this graphic novel special is its attention to Buckley the individual. While we’ll never again hear him speak in his own words, this book provides insight to Buckley as a person, his creative drive, and his commitment to his artistic vision. The novel follows a young Buckley as he falls in love with a woman in New York and how their relationship played a large role in getting Buckley from his dreams to the stage. Initially agreeing to wash dishes at East Village venue Sin-é in exchange for a gig, then quickly becoming the clubs biggest draw, Buckley’s pursuit of his dream is not unlike anyone else’s path during the pre-internet era. He struggled. He doubted himself. But, once he got there he proceeded with a quick pace to recording his debut album Grace. Along this path, Buckley experiences heart break, fear of losing control of his art when he inks his first deal with Columbia Records, and unmitigated confidence upon throwing together his first band.

The band tours the United States and Europe in support of Grace, they fight with the record label, they get exhausted, Jeff constantly fights against his father Tim’s legacy and fans, and eventually finds himself burned out at the same time the label wants his second album. Buckely relocates to Memphis, Tennessee for a change of scenery and hope for inspiration. After a failed attempt at Tom Verlaine of Television producing demos for the new album, Buckley regroups, writes more songs, and gets prepared to finally hit the studio. While waiting for his band to fly in from New York, the ever spontaneous Buckley decides to take a swim in the Mississippi River. That was his final day on earth. The graphic novel closes with a couple of pages of black and white photos developed from a roll of film Buckley’s mother found in his camera. These photos are candid shots taken of him and the band on tour.

This book is required reading for all Jeff Buckley fans. It’s hard to read without being charmed by Buckley’s infectious personality, confidence, and enthusiasm. Even though most readers and fans may be numb to Buckley’s death at this point, like listening to his music, this book tugs at the heart strings of realization that he’s gone from us. It’s a testament to the man and his talent that we continue to find his life so intriguing and desire more.

– J. Kevin Lynch

Grace: Based On The Jeff Buckley Story is out on April 30, 2019. Get your copy here.

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