There are times in life where something happens, and instead of talking about it, I feel the need to write it down. This is one of those times.
I’m sitting at my desk and the house is empty. It’s 8:27am on Sunday morning, and I’ve just come back from trip to the ocean, just my camera and me, to watch the sunrise. Always searching for my own "One Paritcular Harbor", I guess. A pot of coffee is brewing as I type this, and Jimmy Buffett’s “Little Miss Magic” is playing in the living room.
It’s a song he wrote for and about his daughter, and – it feels like- my daughter (and yours) as well. That’s the best thing about Jimmy’s music, it could take you to faraway places – whistful places filled with palm trees, pirates, old men at bars, sailboats and pristine beaches. He could also write a song that speaks of little moments we can all identify with, like how it feels to watch your baby daughter discover the world – in your own living room.
Jimmy Buffett’s passing caught me by surprise. To me, Jimmy was a more than a “Son of a Son of a Sailor”. For years Jimmy Buffett was like our “Peter Pan”, the guy who would never get old, let alone die. He was the Pied Piper who told stories that helped us escape our busy lives for a while, and I, for one, bought tickets to that trip, and loved it. I guess I just always thought Jimmy would be spinning tales of his adventures forever, and hearing the news yesterday stunned me.
I’ve always loved storytellers, and few were better than Jimmy Buffett, whether it was in a novel, or a 3 and ½ minute song about a one armed Spanish Civil War Vet who he befriended as he played piano in a bar in Chicago called “He Went To Paris”. He was so much more than “Margaritaville”. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him perform 5 times, and each show was so good you never wanted it to end.
That’s because Jimmy was the Crown Prince of Escapism.
During the early 90’s, Jimmy’s music gave 30-50 somethings an alternative to the music that later generations favored. His concerts were often the hottest tickets to get (anyone remember trying to get tickets to his Mansfield MA shows on Labor Day weekend? Ha! Good luck!)! But if you were lucky enough to get them – you went, wore island theme clothes and hats, and brought your own Mardi Gras party to Great Woods. The margarita’s and tequila flowed as you lounged in a make shift swimming pool in that the back of a Ford F-250, and maybe even wore a shark balloon hat. Yeah, it was silly, but it was what “Parrotheads” did, and it made you forget the rest of the world. And that was just fine by me.
But the partying and craziness, for me, took a backseat to the songs. Always.
Whether it was the open air freedom of “Ragtop Day”, the sadness of the lonely “Coast of Marseille”, or the ode to the “Jolly Mon” who lived in the stars, I could always return to the music to deliver me, from where I was at the moment into the colorful world of Jimmy’s.
Even as the concerts got a little too “Vegas-like” for me – there was always the songs.
I had always wished Jimmy would do a tour of just him and the guitar so he could strip the songs down to their bones for one night. That would have been pure magic. But it never happened.
Right now, “African Friend” is playing. It is one such “stripped down” songs that I've always loved. It’s a story about his adventures one night in Haiti with a stranger that started in a casino, and ended “on the steps of a whorehouse”.
You never knew where Jimmy’s songs would take you.
But those journey’s were always worth the taking.
I guess this is my “Thank You” letter to him for his contribution to the soundtrack to my (and Valerie’s) life. Thank you for the times you let us board your sailboat, or airplane, or whatever- and too us for a ride.
I never met or knew the man, but I have always felt like I did.
Thank you Jimmy, for sharing your gift with us, and for all the years of “Quietly Making Noise”.
I for one and so happy you did.
The "Oldest Surfer on the Beach" will be missed.