Off Topic: Jimmy Buffett is Dead
I usually have little problem writing. I write multiple columns at technical and business magazines per month; I have a book or books in the queue at any given time. This has taken much longer than I had hoped, but for days, my mind raced. I ran through many Jimmy Buffett experiences and have never met the man. Before you try to keel haul me, I know these songs below may have not all been written by Jimmy Buffett. How I was moved, was not just by the lyrics, but the entirety of the work.
I am a bit stoic, not always, but conditioned by life. I know that wailing and heavy external demonstration of grief is not helpful. That does not mean that there is little or no impact. I guess that most people become a bit more stoic over time as they take the hits life presents, knowing it is just part of life and nothing can be done about it. We take these mental and physical hits along with the good things, embracing the good things. However, when I got up on Saturday morning and learned that Jimmy Buffett had died, well, I cannot put it into better words than that of my longtime friend Dave when he texted me, “I am beyond sad” – all I could think, yeah, me too.
I have long been a Jimmy Buffett fan. I can’t count how many times I have seen Jimmy Buffett in concert; it goes back to 1978 (according to Kevin – my recollection is perhaps rum-induced fog), also in the early 80’s with Dave. There is nothing like a concert, where people get dressed up, and cars. Yes, cars, I saw a Honda dressed up like a shark at one show; it had dorsal and pectoral fins. I still have the ¾ sleeve shirt I got from the Coconut Telegraph Tour (Jimmy on a small spit of land in a payphone booth) with the text I used to rule my world from a payphone ~One Particular Harbor.
I had an 8-track player in my first car and had the Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitude tape. I played that thing constantly. I hated how it changed tracks in the middle of Miss You So Badly. Still, I was glad to have it. As most fans do, I have cassettes, CDs and digital versions of many of his albums.
I remember in the early 80s, Eddie, I think, tried to pass me off as a relative of Jimmy Buffett who had a similarly bushy mustache, wild hair, equally colored hair, and a similar receding hairline – lol.
I worked as an engineer in a small company fresh out of university. I recall being stumped on how best to approach the system design to fulfill the customer requirements a few times. There were objectives and constraints, and the constraints often excluded the obvious and sometimes what appeared to be the best idea. In my frustration, I would pack the car with my camping gear and head to the mountains often with the windows down and sunroof open, and one of Jimmy’s tapes cranked up (I found the works Somewhere over China and A1A are great for this). Coming into the mountains, the cool fresh air and Buffett playing would often bring a solution to the quandary before even pitching the tent.
Somebody’s locked in the bathroom,
Manager can’t find the key
I pity that man, but from where I stand
It’s looking like the prisoner is me
~Jimmy Buffett – Kick it in Second Wind
When times are good, there are plenty of great songs from Jimmy, upbeat and humorous stories in his repertoire. We jump in with joyous singing, especially in the car, bars, or at concerts. When times are bad, there is plenty in his catalog to sit there with you while you take the shot, probably with a shot of rum or tequila, recharge, and get back into things. Long-term relationship ends? Somebody vital to you dies, some songs go with those feelings. There is something to help you commiserate, lament, reflect, and mend in his songs.
Would you be remembering me?
I ask that question time and again
The answer came and haunted me so
I would not want to think it again
No, I would not want to think it again
~Jimmy Buffett – Coast of Marseilles
When I’m feeling low, one of my favorites to listen to is In the Shelter – the best version, in my opinion, is the one on the Changes in Latitudes Changes in Attitude work. I hope not to hear that song for a bit.
All the days out on your own are growing empty
Nothing is going well
If you could only tell them how you feel
They’re too real to understand
~Jimmy Buffett – In the Shelter
There is something about the juxtaposition of a person in a hammock seeing an approaching Hurricane with a nonchalant voice no sense of urgency puts a big smile on my face, even from way back then. It is exactly this sort of reaction to what would seem dire, yet, it’s just taken in stride.
Well the wind is blowin’ harder now
Fifty knots or there abouts
There’s white caps on the ocean
And I’m watchin’ for water spouts
It’s time to close the shutters
It’s time to go inside
In a week I’ll be in gay par-ey
Hell that’s a mighty long airplane ride
~Jimmy Buffett – Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season
Jimmy had a way of spinning tales and write songs that connected with people and life’s joyous and tragic elements. He was not just a musician; his work was a boost when that was needed and a salve when that was required. It was that unexpected stroke of defiance.
She said Momma I’m fine if you happen to wonder
I don’t have much money, but I still get around
I haven’t made church in near thirty-six Sundays
So f**k all those West Nashville grand ballroom gowns
~Jimmy Buffett – West Nashville Grand Ballroom Gown
Quietly making noise, making noise
Pissin off the old killjoys
Glass packs on a hot Mustang
A Telecaster with a twang
Quietly, quietly, quietly making noise
~Jimmy Buffett – Quietly Making Noise
Yeah, I’m a fan, but it is much more than that. He has been part of my life most of my life (+45 years), through good times and, more importantly, transient difficulties and hard times. Now pardon me while I pour some rum (the rum is for all your good vices ~Son of a Son). I have some lamenting to do.
Life and ink, they run out at the same time
Or so, says my old friend the squid.
~Jimmy Buffett – If I could just get it on Paper