On Christmas day 1946 in Pascagoula, Mississippi, the birth of Jimmy Buffett proved a gift not only to the music industry but to the world itself.
Humble beginnings and partially raised in Alabama, he graduated college with a degree in history. A short stint writing for Billboard magazine, followed by several years as a deck hand on a fishing boat, Buffett learned early that life was precious. It was his freshman year at Auburn when he first picked up a guitar.
Buffett began a music career that focused on the good life. Vacations and relaxation, year round, not just for a week or two. Buffett's music is filled with good vibes courtesy of frozen margaritas and flirtatious smiles. Endless sandy beaches with sunsets so spectacular they make you stop and think about what's really important. Spanish moss growing on cypress trees, those Tradewinds on a humid day with a whiff of sea mist that hits you just right and refreshes your soul...and most importantly, cheeseburgers in paradise.
Seriously, is there anything better than eating a greasy cheeseburger sitting under a palm tree? Jimmy Buffett fans, parrot heads are everywhere. At a 1985 concert in Cincinnati, fans showed up to a Buffett concert wearing Hawaiian shirts and carrying inflatable parrots.
The term stuck. And Buffett was knighted. The Pirate. King of the parrot heads.
I suppose it’s only fitting that Mr. Sunshine, his music the epitome that defines the essence of laid back, slipped away from this life peacefully on September 1, 2023, at the end of summer on Labor Day weekend.
I feel as though I've lost a good friend.
His first album titled Down to Earth was released in 1970.
But it was his single Margaritaville off his Changes in Latitudes album that put him on the map. The lyrics stay with you.
Nibblin' on sponge cake
Watchin' the sun bake
All those tourists covered with oil
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing
Smell those shrimp, hey they're beginnin' to boil
Wastin' away again in Margaritaville
Here’s a clip from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
When Buffett was interviewed in 2011, he admitted that Margaritaville didn't really exist but in his head. That he made it up from his real experiences in Key West and having to go back on the road to work. Bidding his time until he could get back to the beach.
His vision breathed with a successful restaurant chain bearing the same name and a 55+ community in several cities: Hilton Head, Daytona Beach and Water Sound, which is near Panama City Beach, Florida. The community is named aptly: Latitude Margaritaville. And it's prime real estate with a long waiting list to live there.
Buffett launched his music career in New Orleans, and that city's voodoo stayed with him all his life. If you've ever been to New Orleans, you understand why Buffett was so passionate about the city below sea level. In the late 1960's he busked in the French Quarter before his upgrade to play in the bars that line the famous Bourbon Street.
Buffett was passionate about New Orleans - the Saints football team, French pastries and Cajun seafood and most of all, the music. He played at NOLA's Jazz Fest several times over the course of his career.
To fans delight, Buffett also had a recurring guest role on CBS's Hawaii-Five O and Blue Bloods.
I had the pleasure of meeting him one time. Okay, so I didn't actually meet him. He was having lunch at Lulu's, a local seaside dive in Orange Beach. No fan fare, no burly security guards in tow, just a man out with a few friends for a late lunch. I remember being starstruck at the man with Walmart feet. The musician was notoriously barefoot in life and on stage.
Of course he ordered a cheeseburger in paradise.
Jimmy Buffett was a talented musician but he also enjoyed life to the fullest. While his passing feels personal to so many, myself included, his legacy of fun and great tunes lives and breathes.
An endless beach. The sun has set, I feel the coolness of trade winds on my cheek.
Thank you, Jimmy Buffett. For the music, for the fun, for the memories. Your life was well lived. You are loved.
Here's a clip of Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett's collaboration - It's Five O'clock somewhere.
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