Larry Beckett

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Although he did not actually play on Tim Buckley's records, Larry Beckett was one of the cult singer/songwriter's most important creative colleagues, co-writing much of Buckley's best material. Buckley…
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Although he did not actually play on Tim Buckley's records, Larry Beckett was one of the cult singer/songwriter's most important creative colleagues, co-writing much of Buckley's best material. Buckley and Beckett started writing together in the mid-'60s, when both were teenagers in the Southern Californian group the Bohemians, in which Beckett played drums. The Bohemians also included bassist Jim Fielder (later to play on records by Buckley and Buffalo Springfield, and as a full member of Blood, Sweat & Tears), and got as far as making a demo that was instrumental in catching the attention of Elektra Records. Elektra, however, was interested in working with Tim Buckley as a solo artist, and not with the Bohemians as a band. Beckett, nonetheless, was closely involved with the making of Buckley's first couple of LPs, both as frequent songwriting collaborator and as an associate whose input into arrangements and recording was accepted in the studio.

On Buckley's self-titled 1966 debut, and on his 1967 follow-up, Goodbye and Hello, Beckett co-wrote about half the tunes (the others were penned solely by Buckley). In general, the Beckett-Buckley compositions were distinguished from those Buckley wrote alone by the literary, metaphysical tone of Beckett's lyrics, which had little counterpart in rock or folk-rock in 1966 and 1967. In the hands of a less-gifted melody writer and vocalist than Buckley, they may have been too ambitious to get pulled off, but they fit Buckley's own searching, yearning persona well.

Standout Beckett-Buckley efforts on Tim Buckley were "I Can't See You," "Song Slowly Song," and "Song of the Magician." Even more impressive was the title track of Goodbye and Hello, originally constructed by Beckett as a piece in which two voices would sing different lyrics (which are even laid out in different columns on the album cover) and counterpoint melodies. Buckley ended up just alternating lines from the two sets of prose, but they certainly reflected the pair's determination not just to move away from the usual singer/songwriter relationship song, but also to experiment with different forms of lyric structure altogether. Other Beckett-Buckley highlights on Goodbye and Hello were the powerful anti-war statement "No Man Can Find the War," "Morning Glory" (which Linda Ronstadt covered under the title "Hobo"), and the lovely "Hallucinations," the only song the duo wrote in which the melody came first, rather than the words.

On Buckley's third album, Happy Sad, the performer decided to suspend the Beckett-Buckley collaboration and write all of the material by himself. Beckett in any case was drafted, serving a year before being discharged as unsuitable. He and Buckley remained good friends, however, and resumed their songwriting partnership for Buckley's 1970 album Starsailor. Starsailor is the most challenging, experimental work by Buckley, and the Beckett-Buckley team composed half of its tracks, including the highlights "Moulin Rouge" (a French tune that was about the only lighthearted moment on the record) and the title cut.

Beckett did co-write, on a more sporadic basis, songs that appeared on subsequent Buckley albums, but was not as intimately involved in the singer's career from the time between Starsailor and Buckley's death in 1975. As of 1999, he was still active as a poet, writer, and lyricist in Portland, OR.