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World Cafe Looks Back: Musicians We Miss

Throughout the month of October, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of World Cafe and revisited some of the best and most memorable interviews of the past 20 years.

Today, we recall the lives and legacies of two American songwriters, Townes Van Zandt and Jeff Buckley, and listen to their intimate interviews from the World Cafe vault. Both died in 1997, but continue to influence countless musicians.

Van Zandt, a "tragic hero" of country music, was born in 1944 to a Texas oil family and grew up idolizing Elvis Presley. Once he made it to Nashville as a musician, he developed only a cult following despite endless critical acclaim. Van Zandt continued to generate music throughout the '90s, rekindling interest with a younger generation when he toured with Cowboy Junkies. He died at the age of 52, but the legacy of his songwriting has continued in those inspired by his heartfelt country-folk, including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones and Conor Oberst. In this recording from 1992, Van Zandt discusses his musical influences and the experience of recording his first album in 1968.

In the early '90s, after years of playing in bands that never made it beyond small East Village coffeehouses, Jeff Buckley began to draw attention for his haunting voice and honest songwriting. He visited World Cafe for the first time in 1994. Grace, his debut and the only album he released during his lifetime, would come out six months later, and Buckley returned to the show after its release. Today's show features songs from the latter session, as well as Buckley's interview from the former. In the interview, Buckley discusses his family life — particularly his relationship with his father, the songwriter Tim Buckley, and the impact of his father's death on Buckley's career.

This segment originally aired on October 26, 2011.

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