I woke up in the wee hours this morning to discover that one of my favorite musicians had died at the age of 76 after a life well lived.
He amassed a loyal fan base whose energy fed him and vice versa, which is easy to see by watching concert footage.
“Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dog.” He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many,” was the official statement being shared.
Although his music portrayed a laid-back, carefree, fun loving lifestyle, Jimmy was quite the business man with a series of restaurants, bars, cafes, a clothing line, and more to his name. He was also a generous soul who believed in giving back to the community and causes he believed in.
I am joined in grieving now with the community of revelers who would gather in parking lots prior to his concerts, decked out in their colorfully festive, tropical-themed laid-back finest. Hawaiian shirts, leis, grass skirts, surrounded by inflatable palm trees and parrots, eating fun food, many sipping the adult beverage of their choice. This teetotaler prefers to alter her senses with the vibe; the music and the positive energy of fellow Parrotheads.
I became enthralled with his music the first time I heard his song, “Come Monday” and soon graduated to his universally known “Margaritaville” and “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude.” I would envision cerulean skies, sweet blue seas, and exquisite Key West sunsets. You know, the kind where it seems that the blazing sun is sinking into the ocean, rainbow painted canvas behind it, and if you listen carefully enough, you can hear a sizzle as sol dips beyond the horizon.
His music became a guiding star that led my husband Michael and I several times to our favorite vacation spot—Key West—where we got to witness that cosmic event I just described as we would spend evenings at Mallory Square, enjoying non-alcoholic pina coladas and “Last Mango in Paradise” drinks.
We would wander the streets as Jimmy Buffett’s music wafted from bars and cafes. Michael had mused about moving there in the hope that one day we would casually cross paths with him. It never happened, but I am now wondering if they might meet up in Heaven, since my husband died in 1998.
The summer before Michael passed from Hep C, I wanted to treat him to concert tickets when Jimmy and The Coral Reefer Band came to the Philadelphia area. The venue has changed names so many times that I don’t recall what it was called back then. We sat in the lawn seat section and he rose when he could, holding on to his carved walking stick for balance, as he attempted to sway along to the music. If memory serves, he even enthusiastically joined in to “Fins” with hands held up in the shape of a shark fin. At one point, a woman who was dancing behind us fell into him, which had a domino effect, as he found himself taking a tumble down the hill, laughing on his way. I scrambled to help him to his feet. He was uninjured, and she mumbled a drunken apology as she sloshed beer on us.
One of Jimmy’s infamous songs is called “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw?” It was used in one of my favorite films called “The Doctor” and was the closing music in the operating room of sexist surgeons; that, hopefully, would never happen now. Jimmy offered a clarification later about the song.
My sister told me a funny story about that song. Several years ago, she was at a community carnival, speaking with a friend who is a nun. The words and music started wafting through, offered up by a cover band. Her friend asked her, “What are they singing?” She knew full well what the song was. She wasn’t born a nun, after all. My sister told her sotto voce, and the Sister’s response was, “I can only do one of those things now” (or words to that effect).
My friend Darin, himself a wearer of Hawaiian shirts and one who enjoys the laid-back lifestyle espoused by Jimmy’s fans, had this to share on the morning he heard the news, “Jimmy was known for his laid back, almost goofy lifestyle, but he was a master craftsman when it came to blending the perfect melody with a great hook and lyricism. He credits his songwriting to Gordon Lightfoot and when I learned that, I could never NOT hear that influence.”
I will be listening to his music throughout the day and tonight, as I gather with friends around a (safely tended) bonfire; we will sing in Jimmy’s memory. Raising a fin in salute.