Think about the islands. Think about the clear blue skies and the sandy beaches. Think about escaping all the worries of your life, just relaxing in the shade, holding a rum-based umbrella-garnished cocktail that's been served in a coconut shell. Now think about what music would be playing in the background of all this easy living.
Chances are, you'll think of Jimmy Buffett.
James Delaney Buffett (December 25, 1946 – September 1, 2023) was an American singer-songwriter, restaurateur, and author. He performed what he called "Gulf and Western" music, mixing influences of country, soft rock, folk, and Caribbean music. Among his most famous songs are "Margaritaville," "Come Monday," "Fins," "Volcano," "A Pirate Looks at Forty," "Cheeseburger in Paradise," "Why Don't We Get Drunk," "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,", "One Particular Harbor", and "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" (a duet with Alan Jackson). Collectively, these songs are known as the "Big 10" among fans, and were played at nearly every one of Buffett's concerts.
But Buffett was not just a musician. His two food chains, Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise, are both named after hit songs. In Miami, Dolphin Stadium was briefly renamed Land Shark Stadium (after the beer brand of the same name) under his sponsorship. His legion of devoted fans are referred to as "parrotheads".
Two of his novels, Tales from Margaritaville, and Where is Joe Merchant? topped the New York Times bestseller list. His non-fiction memoir A Pirate Looks At Fifty also occupied a top spot. He's also written another novel titled A Salty Piece Of Land, several children's books, and was stated to be working on a sequel to his previous memoir before he died.
Buffett was not shy about his fame, either. He made cameos in everything from Jurassic World to Repo Man to Blue Bloods. He also lent his weight to several charities, most notably the Save the Manatee Club (which is very active in Florida), and also raised money for hurricane relief charities.
- Down to Earth
- High Cumberland Jamboree
- A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean
- Living & Dying in 3/4 Time
- Havana Daydreamin'
- Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
- Son of a Son of a Sailor
- Coconut Telegraph
- Somewhere Over China
- One Particular Harbor
- Riddles in the Sand
- Last Mango in Paris
- Hot Water
- Off to See the Lizard
- Barometer Soup
- Banana Wind
- Don't Stop the Carnival
- Beach House on the Moon
- Far Side of the World
- License to Chill
- Take the Weather With You
- Buffett Hotel
- Life on the Flipside
- Equal Strain on All Parts (posthumous)
- You Had to Be There
- Feeding Frenzy
- Buffett Live: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays
- Live in Auburn, WA
- Live in Las Vegas, NV
- Live in Mansfield, MA
- Live in Cincinatti, OH
- Live in Hawaii
- Live at Fenway Park
- Live at Texas Stadium
- Live in Anguilla
- Volcano - Live 2011
Greatest hits albums and collections
- Songs You Know by Heart
- Boats, Beaches, Bar, and Ballads
- Before the Beach
- Margaritaville Cafe: Late Night Menu
- Margaritaville Cafe: Late Night Gumbo
- Christmas Island
- Great American Summer Fun With Jimmy Buffett
- Meet Me in Margaritaville
- Now Yer Squawkin'
Jimmy Buffett provides examples of:
- Agony of the Feet: The narrator of "Margaritaville" explains that he lost a sandal and cut his foot stepping on the discarded top from a beer can.
- A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: "A Pirate Looks At Forty" is the Trope Namer, although he puts it as 200 years too late. The song is about a drug smuggler who laments that he wasn't born in a golden age of piracy, wondering what he should be doing with his life now that "the cannons don't thunder [and] there's nothing to plunder."
- Album Title Drop & Title Track: Both usually played straight. The former averted with Banana Wind, which is an instrumental song. Averted with extreme prejudice on Living and Dying In 3/4 Time, which is a lyric from a song on the album A1A, which came out later.
- Audience Participation Song: Many of his songs, notably "Cheeseburger in Paradise":I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes!
- Audiences shout "Of salt! Of salt! Of salt!" after there's a brief pause in the line "Looking for my lost shaker of salt," in "Margaritaville".
- There's also the 'Fins to the left, fins to the right' hand gesture during live performances of "Fins."
- Jimmy stops to let the audience sing "smoking marijuana" and "learn how to score" in "Pencil Thin Mustache" and also the lyric "all alone and crying" in "Grapefruit Juicyfruit".
- Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: The ultimate fate of the main character in "Jolly Mon Sing", as well as the dolphin who tried to save him.
- Author Appeal: Alcohol. It's difficult to name even one Jimmy Buffett song which doesn't mention liquor. It's even explicitly referenced in the duet with Alan Jackson, "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere". note
- The Band Minus the Face: His band, The Coral Reefers. Averted with Mac McAnally, who is a well known session musician, producer and songwriter, and Nadira Shakoor, who is a Grammy-nominated singer in her own right with her own discography, but who now tours almost exclusively with Buffett.
- The Cameo: He's had many, including as a pirate in Hook, as a Margaritaville patron in Jurassic World, as a con artist pretending to be Jimmy Buffett in Blue Bloods, and as a teacher in Hoot.
- Changing Chorus: Each repetition of the chorus of his song "Margaritaville" ends differently as the narrator gains more self-awareness. The first three lines are alwaysWastin' away again in MargaritavilleSearchin' for my lost shaker of salt.Some people claim that there's a woman to blameFirst chorus ends: But I know it's nobody's fault.Second chorus: Now I think, hell, it could be my fault.Final chorus: But I know it's my own damn fault.
- Chekhov's Volcano: "Volcano", talking about the Soufrière Hills volcano on the island of Montserrat. At the time the song was written, the volcano was dormant, but Jimmy Buffett talked about "when the volcano blow", taking it as a given that it would erupt again. The volcano became active again in 1995 with a big eruption, and is still active now.
- Christmas Creep: "Santa Stole Thanksgiving" is all about this.
- Christmas Songs: Appropriately enough for a guy born on Christmas Day, he's put out two seasonal albums: Christmas Island (1996) and 'Tis the SeaSon (2016).
- Cool Car: The well-loved Cadillac that ferried Earl (a human cannonball) and his wife around the continent and a long, colorful life. After Earl's passing, his wife puts a sign up - "Earl's Dead: Cadillac for Sale". Earl's widow is hoping to sell that car to a worthy successor for more adventures.
- Cool Uncle: In "The Pascagoula Run", he sings about his "black sheep" Uncle Billy, who had made it rich while traveling around the world. When Billy came back home to Mississippi, he immediately went on a 24-hour bar-hopping run to all his old haunts and invited his nephew Jimmy to come along. According to Buffett, this all actually happened back when he was 17.
- Do You Want to Copulate?: "Why Don't We Get Drunk" and screw? Buffett wrote the song because he was sick of listening to love songs that had really bad metaphors and/or tried to hint at sex without actually saying it. So he wrote one of his own that was very direct about what he was asking for.
- Driven to Suicide: The uncharacteristically dark ending to "Nobody Speaks to the Captain No More" has the Captain jumping to his death following a lifetime of failure.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: His first two albums are rather conventional '70s singer-songwriter efforts that sound nothing like the rest of his catalog, causing most fans to disregard their existence altogether.
- Elvis Impersonator: His song, "Elvis Imitators," which is sung in that style.
- Everybody Hates Mathematics: "Math Suks"
- Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: In "Margaritaville", the singer is wasting his life away on a beach, watching tourists on his front porch and getting drunk all day. The song has a Changing Chorus where he says that "some people claim that there's a woman to blame" for how he's acting, but while the singer at first says "it's nobody's fault", he admits "it's [his] own damn fault" that he's behaving the way he is in the final chorus.
- Greatest Hits Album: Several, but most notably Songs You Know by Heart, the 7x platinum-selling album which remains Buffett's most successful record.
- Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: He's all about this look, this attitude, and this lifestyle. Much of his appeal is tenured around easy living on a beach somewhere.
- The Hero Dies:
- The eponymous character in "Jolly Mon Sing" never makes it back to land after being attacked by pirates, though he seems to live on as a kind of guardian spirit.
- "Nobody Speaks to the Captain No More" is a much sadder ending, with the main character throwing himself to his death.
- Homesickness Hymn: "Come Monday" is a textbook example of the "musician weary of touring" motif, as it details a narrator who's finishing up a summer of touring and looking forward to Monday, when he'll be back home with his lover.
- Hope Spot:
- After the main character of "Jolly Mon Sing" is thrown into the ocean by pirates, he's saved by a Friendly Dolphin... but the two of them never actually make it back to land.
- The main character of "Remittance Man" meets a woman whom he falls in love with, but their relationship eventually falls apart.
- Hope Springs Eternal: "Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On" is a Tear Jerker tribute to New Orleans and what it endured during Hurricane Katrina, but the constant message of the song is that in the end, there is always hope.If a hurricane doesn't leave you deadIt will make you strongDon't try to explain it. Just nod your headBreathe in, breathe out, move on
- "How I Wrote This Article" Article: In "Boat Drinks", there's a verse that says, "I should be leaving this climate/I've got a verse but can't rhyme it."
- Humanity Is Insane: The thesis of the song "Fruitcakes", though it's a light-hearted example that treats the idea as a source of humor.
- I'm Okay!: A long-term version. During a tour in Australia in 2011, Jimmy accidentally walked off the front of the stage, fell, and suffered a concussion as a result. After being treated for his injuries, he was released from the hospital the next day. The next year, he returned to Australia for two shows, and switched out the last verse of "Margaritaville" for a double verse outlining what happened, and reassuring everyone that he was just fine.So I went to Australia, the land of fine sailors, Shielas and surfers who don't act their age
Were the lights maybe too bright? It sure wasn't stage fright! Whatever it was, hell, I walked off the stage!
There was lots of discussion about my concussion, the stitches, and bruises that covered this frame
So I flew to Hawaii for acupuncture and sake, a little yoga, and good reefer, and I'm still in the game!
- Intercourse with You: "Why Don't We Get Drunk" was written because Buffett was tired of all the double entendres for sex in songs. The chorus of Buffett's song ends with "Why don't we get drunk and screw," making it very clear about the singer's intentions.
- In the Style of: "Elvis Imitators," sung in the style of...well, just who you would imagine.
- Jailbait Taboo: "15 will get you 20" on a "Livingston Saturday Night." Not one of the Big 10, but his concert scene of it in the mostly forgotten The Last DJ movie from The Seventies, FM, is one of that picture's highlights. It even made the soundtrack album.
- Lyrical Dissonance: “Margaritaville” is pretty upbeat in tempo and instrumentation, considering its subject matter. The song is about a man spending an entire season at a beach resort community, with three verses that describe his day-to-day activities. However, he has nothing to show for his time except a tattoo of a woman that he cannot remember getting. The three choruses reveal that the narrator is pondering a recently-failed romance, and some people claim that his former girlfriend is at fault. The last line of each shows his shifting attitude toward the situation: first "it's nobody's fault," then "it could be my fault," and finally "it's my own damn fault." So the overall story is a man's gradual recognition that it was his own actions that destroyed any chance of happiness with the woman he loved, all while drowning his sorrows in alcohol.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: In 2004, he did a cover of Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'" that featured guest vocals from Clint Black, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, and George Strait.
- Mind Screw: The song "Reggaebilly Hill". The narrator starts by saying that he isn't sure if the story is something he actually saw or not.
- Only in Florida: The Miami Dolphins briefly renamed their major football stadium "Land Shark Stadium". Hell, it's practically an in-joke amongst Floridians, saying that natives are required by law to like Jimmy Buffett.
- Pop-Star Composer: He wrote the soundtrack for the film Hoot.
- Precision F-Strike: "West Nashville Grand Ballroom Gowns". The subject of the song is a female hitchhiker who's running away from the fancy lifestyle. Its last chorus ends with "so fuck all those West Nashville grand ballroom gowns" in a letter written to her mother.
- Prefers Going Barefoot: He often performed barefoot as part of his beach bum persona.
- Pun-Based Title: Many of his albums have these, as can be seen above.
- Real Men Eat Meat: "Cheeseburger in Paradise" is all about how awesome cheeseburgers are. While Buffett describes himself as a "cheeseburger in paradise" — that is, a lazy man who loves the easy life — much of the song is actually about cheeseburgers.
- Rule of Three: Shows up in Margaritaville during the chorus, when the singer notes that "there's a woman to blame." He first says "It's nobody's fault," the second chorus changes it to "it could be my fault," and by the third repeat, he confirms "It's my own damn fault."
- Rock Opera: Don't Stop the Carnival, based on a novel by Herman Wouk.
- Sequel Song: According to Buffett himself, Frankie and Lola Dupree — the main characters in the song "Frankie and Lola" — who are trying to rebuild their marriage by going "on a second honeymoon in Pensacola", are the same mutually cheating couple depicted in his earlier song, "Who's the Blonde Stranger." While he never wrote a third song revealing whether their attempt to fix their marriage worked, Buffett likes to say that he's "hopeful that love conquers all."
- Spoken Word in Music:
- "Everybody's Got A Cousin In Miami" opens with Buffett performing a skit about a man asking his friend to help get him a passport.
- "Fruitcakes" starts with an excessively angry rant about movie theater concessions before launching into a song about how Humanity Is Insane.
- "Mexico", which was also the final song on the album Barometer Soup, has a spoken word segement at the end calling back to all of the previous songs on the album.
- Take That!: The line 'And I hope Anita Bryant never ever does one of my songs', from the song "Manana" At the time "Manana" came out, Anita Bryant (another Florida singer who specialized in Muzak versions of pop tunes, among other things) was campaigning to repeal a local ordinance in Dade County, Florida, that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; Buffett was one of her most vocal opponents.
- Wanderlust Song:
- "Far Side of the World" is a travelogue song about various memorable moments the singer has had with local people in different parts of the world and how much he loves traveling.
- "Savanna Fair You Well" is a sadder example about not feeling comfortable staying at home for too long.
- What Would X Do?: From "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere":"I could pay off my tab/Pour myself in a cab/And be back to work before two/At a moment like this/I can't help but wonder/What would Jimmy Buffett do?"
"We ask ourselves when we get in a fix
- "Funny you should ask, Alan."
- Also in "Take It Back":
What would Popeye do in a tight spot like this?"