One of my favorite songs probably in the world is Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye” (Grace, 1994). It’s not just the beauty of the instrumentation (although that skittering melody gets me every time), but the richness and the poetry of the lyrics as well. One of the best breakup/moving away/leaving songs ever recorded because of its reality – it’s not a total screw-you song like “You Oughta Know” or simply a mopey song like “Forever Blue” but instead it plumbs the depths of a real relationship that’s dying.
Few artists that I know of have attempted their hand at covering this masterpiece, but Natalie Merchant undertook the effort with mostly favorable, if staid, results (I really don’t think there is any way I could like any cover better than the original). I love Merchant’s gorgeously unique voice; I think my favorite exhibition of it is, for some reason, a little song off Tigerlily called “Beloved Wife,” which just wrecks me. This version is pretty faithful, instrumentally, to the original Buckley rendition.
Last Goodbye (Jeff Buckley cover) - Natalie Merchant
I think that one of the best moments of integration and explosion in a song is where Last Goodbye breaks – the notes immediately prior, the vocal soaring, then:
Did you say ‘no, this can’t happen to me,’
And did you rush to the phone to call
Was there a voice unkind in the back of your mind
Saying maybe you didn’t know him at all
As much as I love the album version, my favorite version forever and ever would have to be this alternate from the Eternal Life single. The first 25 seconds are so changed as to be almost unrecognizable. It builds more slowly. Jeff also adds a small tag that I love, right before the lyrics quoted above:
Why does she call me
When she knows what it does to me . . .
Last Goodbye (alternate version) - Jeff Buckley
From the Eternal Life single