Blame it on Buffett.
I’ll explain that opening shortly.
Almost three years ago I felt the sting of losing someone who I’d actually never met, a troubadour whose music I’d been affected by since the early 70s. At any given moment, Jerry Jeff Walker’s music is likely to be some of what’s pouring from my playlists. Many people, even now, don’t know who Jerry Jeff was since his songs never got a lot of airplay on the radio. One of the reasons for the lack of airtime was that nobody knew exactly how to classify his music. Eventually though, it became known as “Outlaw Country”. Trust me, Willie and Waylon didn’t invent the genre, it was Jerry Jeff. Jerry Jeff had already recorded Viva Terlingua in Luckenbach years before Nelson and Jennings ever set foot in the iconic Texas hamlet. Jerry Jeff’s most famous song was Mr. Bojangles which was recorded by a jillion other artists but he wrote hundreds of others and made many written by other songwriters his own, like Redneck Mother and London Homesick Blues.
Jerry Jeff Walker was a musical genius.
So was my good friend who I never met, Jimmy Buffett.
Over the past forty years or so, there probably wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t push in an 8-track tape or later, a cassette, slide in a cd, or, more recently download a playlist that allowed me to hear Jimmy singing some of the thousands of songs he recorded in his five decades on the music scene.
Jimmy got me through two divorces and more heartaches than I want to remember but he was also there through some of the most joyous times of my life. All three of my children can sing along to many Jimmy songs.
He rode along with me many endless nights as I patrolled the side streets and back alleys as a street cop for over twenty years Out West.
I listened to Jimmy singing the perfect lyrics to “Mother, Mother Ocean” at the funeral of a fellow parrot head who was also a retired sailor who loved the open sea as much as Jimmy did.
Jimmy was with me not only on the numerous beach vacations, from Tybee Island to Gulf Shores, from Malibu to Maui, but also on every road trip I ever took across the fruited plain.
Years ago, during one of the family beach trips that we took once a year, I reluctantly sat on the beach watching my kids frolicking. I say reluctantly because at the time I was not a beach person. I had always preferred the mountains. But that day, as I sipped my adult beach concoction, I slipped on my headphones and popped in a Jimmy cd, tuned low enough so that I could still hear the surf and the gulls and the sea winds and my kids yelling, “Hey Dad, watch this.”
Jimmy was singing about island life.
“I wanna go back, to the island, where the shrimp boats tie up to the pilings,” crooned Brother Jimmy as I sipped.
Suddenly I had an epiphany.
Sitting there on that “salty piece of land” I realized that I could be a mountain man and a beach bum, not just one or the other.
Since that enlightened day there’s no telling how many hours I’ve spent sitting under my beach umbrella on some beach somewhere on both coasts and the Gulf, all hours well-wasted. The constant part of every one of those hours has always been Jimmy’s tunes.
A dozen years ago, after attending one of many Jimmy Buffett concerts, at the end of the column I wrote, “Live forever, Jimmy.”
He didn’t live forever.
Jimmy Buffett died last week.
But the music, the Key West lifestyle, the “changes in attitude, changes in latitude”, will never die.
So, if you see me with a dreamy look on my face when I should be working or paying attention to some task or another, my pensiveness might be because I’m mentally sailing the Caribbean to “St. Somewhere”.
If you catch me sprawled out on my porch swing, barefoot with a straw hat over my face, I just might be quietly singing Margaritaville and planning my next beach trip.
If you pass me on the road and wave and I don’t wave back, it could be because I am re-living one of the dozens of concerts I attended spread over five states.
Blame it on Buffett.
Rest In Peace, Brother Jimmy.