It is always a strange thing to mourn the loss of a celebrity you may have never actually met or known, but Jimmy Buffett has been a part of most of my life. My congregations have sometimes been surprised to learn I am a Parrothead (for those even familiar with that terminology). My love for his art extends much farther into my past than being a minister. As a 9-year-old I was enraptured hearing “Come Monday” on the radio in my dad’s Corvair. This was a few years before the ubiquitous hit "Margaritaville" made him a household name.
I’ve seen Buffett in concert 5 ½ times. The “half” was being on site for a concert in Atlanta, but having to leave for reasons involving Margaritas. I saw him in Colorado, Nashville (twice), Knoxville and Chattanooga. The only one that was not a blast was in Knoxville which I blame on the indoor venue.
By his own admission, Jimmy was “not a great singer, and I'm only a so-so guitar player.” But the music was infectious, fun, transportive and often touching. His lyrics are sometimes punny, sometimes deep and always a tad more complex than most pop music. His song, “Bigger Than The Both of Us” was featured at my wedding reception as it was very special to my wife and me. A side trip to Key West and the Margaritaville restaurant there was a part of our honeymoon.
Not many of us were able to live his laid back, beach bum life, but we loved the vibe and lived vicariously through him. I didn’t often have the time or money to head to the tropics, but I could pop “Son of a Son of a Sailor” in my cassette player and at least take a brief mental vacation. It could change my attitude if not my literal latitude. I have been known to sprinkle tidbits of his philosophical lyrics into both sermons and conversations.
The closest I came to truly living the Buffett life was a trip taken with my best friend Jay Adams back in 1990. We took off from Tennessee after work and drove all night long to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We then worked our way down the coast via AIA as much as possible all the way to the Fiesta Key KOA. There we strung hammocks from his Suzuki Samurai to palm trees. We ate the freshest shrimp I’ve ever had while listening to “Doc” warble his way through some Jimmy Buffett songs at the camp pub.
I have a trip planned to the Outer Banks in a little over a week where I plan to “cram lost years into five or six days.” It’s a place where “Salt air it ain't thin, It can stick right to your skin, and make you feel fine. Makes you feel fine.”
Manning the blender at my "Pirate Looks at 40" birthday party