More Than Margaritaville
Updated: Sep 26
I’m a Parrot Head from waaaaay back. Jimmy Buffett’s music has been the background of my life since I was 18 years old; I’m 65 now so do the math. He forged my love for the sand, surf, and sea. In the early days, I went to Buffett concerts that were held in locations where fans brought in lounge chairs, and plastic pools and stuck pink plastic flamingos in the ground. This was before the days of large venues; back when most of the seating was on the grass, no security checking your purse, no metal detectors, and no checking to make sure you were not sneaking in your own bottle of rum. Speaking of sneaking in a bottle of rum I may or may not have put a liter of Bacardi in the waistband of my shorts, untucked my shirt and did the pregnant lady walk into Starplex Amphitheatre in Dallas, Texas.
On Saturday morning September 2, 2023, we woke to the news that Jimmy Buffett passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dogs. We later learned he was diagnosed with Merkel Cell Carcinoma in 2019 but he continued to perform during treatment. Along with my husband and two dear friends, we traveled to Denver to see him perform in September 2021 at Red Rocks. I am confident there was not a soul in the audience who knew he was battling a rare form of cancer. I am certain none of us thought he would be gone two years later.
Even Non-Parrot-Heads probably know the lyrics to Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise. They’ve likely heard Fins, Volcano and Why Don’t We Get Drunk And Sc%#w. I bet Non-Parrot Heads have sung along to the Allen Jackson song Five O’Clock Somewhere featuring Jimmy Buffett. But die-hard fans know Jimmy’s music goes much deeper than these easily recognizable favorites. He was a storyteller; an artist who painted with lyrics and music. Margaritaville may have made him a household name but everything about Mr. Buffett went much deeper than Margaritaville. Take a moment to “take it all in, it’s as big as it seems, count all your blessings remember your dreams.” (From Jimmy Dreams)
"Yes, I am a pirate, two hundred years too late. The cannons don't thunder, there's nothin' to plunder I'm an over-forty victim of fate. Arriving too late, arriving too late."
“Sailin’ on a midnight boat, there were no questions ask, the water so green and the air was so clean he just stuck right to his task”
“Alone on a midnight passage, I can count the falling stars, while the Southern Cross and the satellites they remind me of where we are. Spinning around in circles living it day to day and still twenty-four hours, may be sixty good years, it’s really not that long a stay."
“As a dreamer of dreams and a travelin’ man I’ve chalked up many a mile. Read dozens of books about heroes and crooks and I learned much from both of their styles.”
“Changes have come like the storms of the season but time here still moves slow.”
“I know I don’t get there often enough but God knows I surely try. It’s a magic kind of medicine that no doctor could prescribe.”
“Some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic, but I’ve had a good life all the way.”
“…and everybody wonders did he really lose his mind? No he was just a poet who lived before his time…”
"The rockets in the air and the people everywhere put away their differences for a while. Oh I am still a child when it comes to something wild. That was the night I painted the sky."
Those are a few of my personal favorites. Each one takes me back in time and pulls at my heartstrings.
I can’t begin to count the number of Jimmy Buffett concerts I attended. From grassy lawn seats when that’s all I could afford, to the expensive seats right next to the stage. Each show was filled with JB’s Schoolboy Heart and Summerzcool vibe. Once we added a baby to our family we knew he was destined to be a "Parakette;" he attended his first Buffett concert in Frisco, Texas back when he was a wee lad of four. This was his first experience with fin hats, Hawaiian leis, grass skirts, coconut shell bras, and a strange smell wafting through the air. Explain that one to a four-year-old. Fast forward four years to Jimmy playing at the Moody Theater in Austin, TX on May 30, 2012. Understand that if you had floor tickets it meant you were standing for the entire concert and if you were lucky you made your way up front. Parrotheads are always good to little kids and the sea of people seemed to part as we made our way to the stage. I’m sure they were thinking that this kid needed to actually be able to see Jimmy and not spend the entire evening looking at the back side of someone wearing a grass skirt. As he always does Jimmy played for hours and our eight-year-old seemed to be the only kid in the house, or at least the only one still standing as Jimmy began to close out the night with Why Don’t We Get Drunk. I looked around desperately trying to figure out how I was going to explain those lyrics to an eight-year-old when the guy next to us in a pirate costume leaned in and said we are going to sing “why don’t we get lunch at school.” And we sang those amended lyrics loudly, all the grownups around us got in on the act. For a very long time, our son really thought those were the actual lyrics and he sang them proudly. As the last song of the set began Jimmy walked to the edge of the stage, pointed at our son, took off his wristband, and tossed it down to a wide-eyed little kid. Not one adult around us tried to grab that wristband, they all cheered as our boy slipped it on his arm and kept singing along. We still have the wristband.
It’s been a tough weekend. Losing Jimmy Buffett is like losing an old friend. I never met the man, I didn’t know him personally but he felt like such a part of my life, he felt like family. I miss him, I will continue to miss him, but his legacy will live on and his music will bring joy to generations.
He left us with one spectacular gift. If you haven’t heard it yet be sure to give a listen to Bubbles Up. And keep an eye out for his last album Equal Strain On All Parts to be released in November 2023. Parrotheads agree Bubbles Up is his parting tribute to his fans, his way of saying goodbye and reminding us that we will be OK and we are loved.
“He’s somewhere on the ocean now, a place he oughta be, with one hand on the starboard rail, he’s wavin’ back at me”
The Captain And The Kid music and lyrics by Jimmy Buffett