Tim Buckley is the finest singer of the 1960s. That will raise some eyebrows (including mine, if I think too hard about it), and it's maybe a little exaggerated given the rarefied company of other contemporary artists such as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, and Van Morrison. But the point is that everybody knows Aretha, Otis, Marvin, and Van, and almost no one knows Tim Buckley.
Which is too bad, because his voice was a force of nature, and his music was as restlessly creative and searching as any music released during that incredibly fertile decade. You want to discover the template used by sadsack romantics from Nick Drake to Elliott Smith? Listen to Tim Buckley or Goodbye and Hello. You want to hear jazz magically ported to the folk idiom? Listen to Happy/Sad or Blue Afternoon. You want to hear a guy who was as avant-garde and "outside" as Ornette Coleman or Captain Beefheart? Listen to Lorca or Starsailor. You want to hear one of the great soul albums of the early '70s? Listen to Greetings from L.A. And if you want to hear it all merged and taken to dizzying soulful heights, listen to Dream Letter, maybe my favorite live album ever.
The guy had a four-octave range, he oozed soul, and his early ballads ("Once I Was" just slays me, after all these years) were heartbreakingly lovely. That's a pretty great combination, enough to convince me that there's at least minor heartbreak in the fact that his music is all but forgotten today.
Oh yeah ... Tim's son Jeff was (yes, sadly, was) pretty great, too, and his debut album Grace is frequently listed in the Top 100 Albums of All Time lists that curmudgeonly critics like to compile. But here's the deal: Tim was better. You owe it to yourself to check out his music.