Everyone knows Jimmy Buffett songs, by heart. I have met one person, who shall remain nameless, who, when I mention the singer/writer/entrepreneur, wrinkled her nose in a show of distaste and said, “I don’t like his music.”
It baffled me then, it baffles me now. I understand how ska or rap or country can be not your cup of music. But how can anyone dislike “Margaritaville” or “Cheeseburger in Paradise”? It isn’t a matter of taste, it’s a matter of your feet tapping on their own, your head nodding along without your consent. Some things are universal. I mean, reggae isn’t my jam, but whenever Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” or “Stir it Up” plays on the radio, I sing along at the top of my lungs.
But then, there are people who earnestly believe that the Earth is flat.
It’s a funny thing, music. It unites us as much as food does. But it can also be deeply personal, because it can reach you at a time when you are at your most vulnerable, loneliest, happiest, saddest, angriest. A good friend once cancelled lunch on the day Prince died — it hit her so hard all she could do was stay home and cry. I didn’t really get it, although I respected it. I didn’t get it — until Leonard Cohen died. Then my grief for my “Rabbi” blotted out whatever was good that day.
I’m no Parrothead. But I have read “Where is Joe Merchant?” more than 30 years ago, and it’s still one of my top 10 favorite books. When I mentioned that fact to my son, he shrugged, like that was the most natural thing in the world. “He was a great writer,” Sammy said, after admitting that he broke down and cried a little after he heard the news of Buffett’s death. My son is a musician, so this, I know, is a big painful thing for him. Growing up, on rides in my car, he also experienced Jimmy Buffett’s greatest hits on heavy rotation.
Jimmy Buffett was a great writer, wasn’t he? I mean, that’s the bottom line in everything, from songs to books: the writing. Sure, catchy melodies are groovy, but without clever (if, at times, strange) lyrics, it’s not going to be a thing that lasts. And, as a writer, it’s bottom line for me — the words.
Also, I think, for me it was possibilities and colors that Jimmy Buffett afforded. No, not possibilities, that’s a wrong word. New…