Oh, how the Rust Belt children dreamed! They dreamed so hard they looked around at one another and swore that all of them had transformed into bright colorful birds. Parrots, if you will. The open-air aviary where they gathered was called Blossom Music Center and the magical beach bum who made it all possible was named Jimmy Buffet, who sang about exotica like margaritas and one-night stands and volcanoes and sharks. Land-locked Midwesterners couldn’t get enough of it. You’ve heard of destination weddings, well, this was destination music. With just a bottle of Two Fingers tequila, a few hand-rolled joints of Panama Red and a cassette tape entitled Songs You Know By Heart, any pasty Ohioan could leave behind the sunless days, 47% unemployment rate and soul-crushing hopelessness of the ol’ homestead for a blessed short while.
I was hardly a fan, but the guy was so huge where I came from that I had always assumed he was a star of a magnitude similar to Bruce Springsteen or Elton John. Or at least Phil Collins. Imagine my surprise when I went off to college and started meeting Buffett fans from other parts of the country who regarded him not as some de facto musical giant, but a cultish, eccentric singer/songwriter along the lines of Van Dyke Parks or Tim Buckley! The Billboard charts bear this out–he’s had only ONE Top Ten hit (need I mention it by name?) in almost half a century of recording and only reached the very outer fringes of the Top 40 with a handful of other songs. A small handful.
No matter, though, his fans are legion and they love him and he gives them what they want. He’s started a burgeoning food and drink empire, has his own dedicated channel on SiriusXM satellite radio, and even owns his very own satellite (named, appropriately, Fruitcake) which allows him to listen to his beloved Miami Heat and New Orleans Saints games no matter what remote body of water he’s floating around on. Heck, he even writes high-brow literary fiction under the pen name “Donna Tartt.” Not too bad for the grandson of a sailor!