Ode to Jimmy Buffett
Reflections of Parrothead Times
“They are all waiting for Buffett to transport them to a mythical paradise called Margaritaville. It’s a land that lives somewhere in almost everyone’s imagination.” -60 Seconds special with Jimmy Buffett
It wasn’t until I heard the news of Jimmy Buffett’s death this Labor Day weekend that I recognized the impact he had on so many Americans’ lives. Growing up in middle America in Massillon Ohio, my friends and I loved Jimmy Buffett. I heard his songs played in our cars, mix tapes, and at parties. We wore fake leis and dressed in Hawaiian gear during his summer concert at Blossom Music Center. Amidst the beach volleyballs, we were going to immerse ourselves as fellow parrotheads, an endearing name for his fans.
Eventually, the tropical themed chained restaurants popped up. “Margaritaville” was one of my mother’s favorite places to go for special occasions. I think I took him for granted at that time. His music was in the background of offices, restaurants, and parties in my Ohio life. This was just fun tropical music. It gave people of all ages an allowance to party. They used the mantra and famous line from his song “it’s 5:00 somewhere.”
The Longing for Paradise
He made a bigger impact he made on people’s lives. He transported people to other places. It was an inner pilgrimage we took with each track on his album. Middle Americans felt they could access the essence of paradise when they listened to his music. His music is played by people in high pressure jobs such as emergency room surgeons. Fans access another state of mind. Their shoulders relax, hips sway, smiles widen across their faces, and lyrics sung.
When one travels to beach destinations in America, there most likely is a Jimmy Buffett themed restaurant where one can sip a margarita and listen to his music. This is often what I imagine to be a typical American’s quick holiday escape. Music, Margaritas, and the sea. His Margaritaville franchise expanded beyond tee shirts, hot sauce, margarita mix, restaurants to cruise ships, hotels, and time shares. People wanted what his music portrayed. “Somehow or another I put my thumb on the pulse of escapism, and we market it very well.”
I have lived ten years outside of America. I am an outsider looking in and can see the impact. Americans receive an average of two weeks vacation a year. They have high levels of stress. We need his music that helped us transcend to this fun playful place on a more frequent basis. When his songs are played, our bodies are trained to know it equates with a sense of relaxation.
Jimmy Buffett shared on the 60 minutes interview “I do it because it belongs to the people, and I really feel that way. It’s mine for a certain amount of time, you nurture it and it belongs to somebody else. It’s the background for other people’s lives.”
It is fitting he died on Labor Day weekend. It marks an end to summer in America. His music and empire is perpetually linked with an endless summer. This is where I hope he will reside. Thank you for helping create background music for our lives Jimmy Buffett. You will be missed, but forever appreciated.
To watch the interview in entirety : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXaLA2O5IGk
To read more of how to live life like a tourist, as many parrot heads have chosen to do, check out this previous blog post https://amodernpilgrimage.com/how-to-live-life-like-a-tourist/