“Simple words can be come clever phrases,
And chapters could turn into books.
Yes if I could just get it on paper,
But it’s harder than it ever looks.”
— If I Could Just Get It On Paper, Jimmy Buffett, 1982
Was out of town this weekend and had trouble sleeping in a hotel as usual so I saw when the cell phone lit up with an alert at 2 a.m.
Jimmy Buffett, dead at 76.
Great way to start a weekend — if you want the weekend to be crummy.
It was autumn of 1979 and a friend said to come with him to a casual party on a weeknight, just a couple blocks from Louisiana Tech’s campus, off Spencer Street in someone’s yard. Maybe 50 students hanging around with Solo cups and a record player was spinning “The Great Filling Station Holdup,” my first exposure to Jimmy Buffett. I was about six years late to the party that wouldn’t end until early Saturday morning when Jimmy Buffett, a musical Boy of Summer, passed away from a rare form of skin cancer, holding on, fittingly, through the final day of the Unofficial Summer.
I backtracked and caught up. Scraped together loose change and when possible bought “A1A” and “Havana Daydreamin’” and “Changes in Latitudes” and “Son of a Son of a Sailor,” each an album or cassette when there were such things.
Loved Jimmy. Appreciated he could laugh at himself and find the humor in his fellow travelers and share it. We are, after all, an odd bunch.
Saw him twice in concert. I never recall anyone saying anything about going to a Jimmy Buffett concert to hear Utley on keyboards or Fingers on harmonica or even to hear Jimmy Buffett sing. It was all about going to have some fun.
In all the obits I’ve read, there were no stories of him being a big shot or a crazed rock star. They are all about his humor and generosity and blanket kindness. He sang about Margaritaville, but he didn’t live there.
He was a singer and a guitar player but mainly he was an entertainer and mostly he was a writer. And a great one. He was at his best writing short stories, so short that they could be three-minute songs.
Paul Simon and Paul McCartney, no less than titans in the art, have said this week that Jimmy Buffett was not only one of their best friends but also one of the best songwriters in the business. They know how hard it is.
You want silly, fun songs? Listen to “Margaritaville” or “Pencil Thin Mustache” or “Cheeseburger in Paradise” or “The Weather is Here, I Wish You Were Beautiful.” “Fins” and “Volcano” and “Fruitcakes.”
Women and men songs? “Miss You So Badly.” “Distantly in Love.” “Come Monday.” “Cuban Crime of Passion.” “Who’s the Blonde Stranger.”
Want to make some quick trips? “Jamaica Mistaica.” “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season.” “One Particular Harbor.” “Tampico Trauma.” “Boat Drinks.” “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On.”
You want to meet some unforgettable people, read/listen to some textured short stories? Try “African Friend,” “Havana Daydreamin’,” “He Went to Paris,” “Somewhere Over China,” “The Captain and the Kid,” “Last Mango in Paris,” or “Cowboy in the Jungle.”
There’s some good stuff on those old albums.
If you are aware of him at all, you can hardly think of him and not smile. I appreciate that he had such a fascination with life, and that he wasn’t selfish about spreading the love. Secretly, that took a lot of work behind the scenes; all we saw were the beaches and the boats.
“… Yeah if I could just get it on paper,
I could tell you what I think I did.”
Contact Teddy at email@example.com