I put my completed blog post aside after hearing the news that Jimmy Buffett had passed away yesterday. It will have to wait for another day: An original modern pirate has died.
Jimmy Buffett found paradise and told the rest of world where to find it, creating an industry in the process. Everybody knows Margaritaville and Come Monday, but it takes a dedicated Parrothead to dive deeply into his catalog. Here are five songs to remember Jimmy Buffett by as we toast his life with a splash of rum and a song in our hearts:
A Pirate Looks At Forty
If Margaritaville is the anthem for Parrotheads, A Pirate Looks At Forty is the heart and soul. Any sailor worth their salt has hummed this song to themselves at some point while on the water or wishing they were so. Many of us fancy ourselves as rebels and pirates when we aren’t being responsible adults, and this song is the anchor for that identity.
Mother, mother ocean, I have heard you call
Wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall
You’ve seen it all, you’ve seen it all
Watched the men who rode you, switch from sails to steam
And in your belly, you hold the treasures few have ever seen
Most of ’em dream, most of ’em dream
Yes, I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothin’ to plunder
I’m an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late
Jimmy reminds himself and each of us to take it all in it’s as big as it seems. The explorer within us dying to break free hears that call, and seeks adventure. We live in a world that mocks dreamers. He reminds us that everything big begins with the audacity to dream it.
Towards the bright Piades
It’s so strange
What his distant eye sees
The worlds such a toy if you just stay a boy
You can spin it again and again
Who knows why you start
Rediscovering your heart
But that’s why Jimmy dreams
I may have heard this song a thousand times by now, and still smile at the idea of training a parakeet to open your wine bottles for you. Buffett in his latter years was wealthy enough to have people for that, but can’t you just picture him in that old suit? He was a master at painting the tropics as magical.
Well now if I ever live to be an old man
I’m gonna sail down to Martinique
I’m gonna buy me a sweat-stained Bogart suit
And an African parakeet
And then I’ll sit him on my shoulder
And open up my trusty old mind
I gonna teach him how to cuss, teach him how to fuss
And pull the cork out of a bottle of wine
Perhaps my favorite song by Jimmy Buffett, Nautical Wheelers portrays the early days in Key West, when anything seemed possible if you just stepped into it. The Keys are a destination now, and that young man holding the line while everyone else at the party danced to their own beat would have been amazed at how much his songs sold the dream. Life was more laid back then. It was a place where you could live and die in 3/4 time. Today cruise ships dump tourists off to hit Sloppy Joe’s and Capt Tony’s Saloon before stumbling back aboard. We all want a bit of paradise, and to be where it all started.
Well the left foot it’ll follow where the
Right foot has traveled down to the
And into the street of my city so neat,
Where nobody cares what you do.
And Sonja’s just grinnin’
And Phil is ecstatic and
Mason has jumped in the sea.
While I’m hangin’ on to a line
From my sailboat oh,
Nautical Wheelers save me.
And It’s dance with me, dance with me
Take me to stars that you know.
Come on and dance with me,
I want so badly to go.
Cowboy in the Jungle
Jimmy saw those businesses catering to tourists and doubled down on it with the Margaritaville brand. But well before that he looked less fondly at those who tried to jamb a lifetime of freedom into a few vacation days. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, they say. Buffett became a billionaire on the idea of freedom and the carefree tropical lifestyle. But who wants to swim in a roped-off sea?
Alone on a midnight passage
I can count the falling stars
While the Southern Cross and the satellites
They remind me of where we are
Spinning around in circles
Living it day to day
And still 24 hours may be 60 good years
It’s really not that long a stay
Savannah Fare You Well
Buffett’s daughter is named Savannah, so the place had a special meaning for him. When people think of Buffett for songs like Fruit Cakes, Fins and Volcano, I point them towards Savannah Fare You Well as an example of a more refined, introspective artist. There are so many great songwriters out there, but nobody sold the salty dream better than Jimmy Buffett.
It’s such a fragile magic
A puff of wind can break the spell
And all the golden threads are frail as spider webs
Savannah, fare you well