The Passing of a Friend
You have probably heard that James William Buffett - better known as Jimmy Buffett - passed away September 1, 2023. There have been many tributes and stories posted online telling stories of how they found his music, what it meant to them, and how it affected them. I thought I would add mine to the mix in a venue that I see as a little less transitory than Facebook - besides, seems fitting given that TWT was named for one of his songs!
Back in the 70s, as a kid, I naturally had heard Come Monday and Margaritaville on the radio - though honestly I had no idea who sang the songs. Heck, I thought Glen Campbell did Come Monday! An effect of Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Lineman I'm sure.
In the summer of 1982 I enlisted in the US Navy and by spring of '83 I found myself on a Fast Frigate deployed out of Charleston, SC in the Pacific. We were rotating out of Panama doing gun running interdiction (anyone remember the Sandinistas?). Homesick, there was a song that came on the radio a lot as we played square circle on the flight deck - Cheeseburger in Paradise. It made me smile.
The first time I walked into the NCO club on the base at the end of the Panama Canal, there was this crazy song playing on the jukebox that made you go "What did he just say?" Yep - Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw!
Now, I still had no idea who sang these treasures - there was no internet at the time - until 1991 or so when I was managing a Pizza Hut. The unit had a juke box, and one of the CDs was Songs You Know By Heart - and one of the songs I played every night as we closed shop was Cheeseburger in Paradise. Now I knew who sang the songs!
Of course I now bought my first Buffett CD - Feeding Frenzy. Played the snot out of it! In 1998 my stepdaughter got me tickets for she and I to go see Buffett in concert at the Meadows Music Center for my birthday (sorry Mom, she said, if you wanna go, you have to buy your own ticket - $28!).
It was a great show - and it was many years before he returned to Hartford for a concert. It was the first of many shows of his I've been to - many at Great Woods, the show at Fenway, Mohegan Sun. Lots of great memories, lots of crazy tailgating. The Fenway show had no tailgating, so we went to the show in a limo, got a marine battery inverter, and ran blenders to have a private tailgate for 8! There were stories told about that for years by the limo drivers. We even rented a full size motor home for one concert, and had a nice grill setup for tailgating that year (so nice to have our own bathroom, too!).
The Music and What it Did to Me
I have heard many people - my family included - say that people just like Buffett's music because they like to party and get drunk. I think that a lot of people feel that way when they first find his music - the beach party vibe is hard to resist!
But when you stick around a little longer, you realize that mixed into all this great music are some amazing profound truths and a guide to living life. The idea of when things go wrong Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On makes a lot of sense. Or that I should Die While I'm Living Than Live While I'm Dead while I Grow Older, But Not Up, nor am I ready to put the Book on the Shelf. There is so much that helps guide and inform the principles of my life, and picks me up when I am feeling down - after all it is nice to know that you're not the only person in the world feeling the way you are.
Not saying that his music is all about philosophy - there are plenty of silly songs in the mix. After all, who wants to read Tolstoy all day? But it is a rare thing to find someone who can give you both - and on the same CD, no less.
So, here is to Jimmy Buffett - a man who set sail before any of us were ready for him to. To a man I never met, who has managed to influence my life in ways both profound and subtle.
May you have found the seas plowed as you embarked on that next great adventure, and I hope we get to meet when my time comes so I can thank you in person for all the gifts you've bestowed on me.
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