Jimmy Buffet was an old soul with a poet's heart and a child's sense of adventure. In this episode I look at some of the late singer's lyrics and muse about his wisdom.
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Farewell Jimmy Buffett
In his book A Pirate Looks at Fifty, Jimmy Buffett wrote…
“You know Death will get you in the end, but if you are smart and have a sense of humor, you can thumb your nose at it for a while.”
Yesterday I woke to the news that Jimmy Buffett had died the day before. The news arrived in a social media post of a friend.
A day later, I found myself in a mild funk. This is surprising to me. I didn’t know the man. I’m not a person who gets sad about the death of famous people. Somehow, the loss of Jimmy is different.
Yeah, like most people, Jimmy’s music has been a part of the soundtrack of my life. His music is fun, playful, uplifting, and in a few cases, poetic and touching.
When I was a young film student, I frequently suggested to friends Jimmy’s song He Went to Paris, should be made into a movie. It’s a beautiful tale of a man he meets down by the Pier. He’s an old guy missing an eye who is hunched over and ragged, sipping cheap beer while he fishes. As they talk the layers of his story are pealed back. The song reveals that he’s an English man who, as a young man went to Paris, and then found the love of his life and settle down and had a child. Later, his son is killed in the war, and his wife is killed by the bombing in England. And then as the song says, “he jumped on a freighter, skidded the ocean and left England without a sound”. He ends up in the islands, as he tries to put his life back together. Make sense of it all. In the end, the old man says, “some of its magic, so if it’s tragic, but I had a good life all the way.”
I’ve always found that song incredibly poignant and beautiful. It tells the epic scope of one human journey. It’s the tragic and beautiful story of an individual. It’s a reminder that if you take any random person (maybe even a person whose personal appearance you initially judge)… and you dig a little deeper, you can discover the pain they’ve endured and what they’ve done to try and make their way in this life, as they move forward in the wake of that pain.
You can see the unmistakable beauty of their humanity.
He went to Paris tells how, when we look at life as a journey, the inevitable pain doesn’t have to be completely debilitating. There’s always more if we can keep it in the perspective that there will be pain, but there will also be beauty.
It’s also a reminder that we’re all doing the best we can with the tools we have.
And this seemed to be more than just a song he wrote. It seems Jimmy lived his life from this perspective.
This morning, reading through the tributes to him, all the performers you might expect were saying beautiful things about him. But those voices were joined by mayors, authors, fans, friends, and business associates. Paul McCartney, who considered him a dear friend, had beautiful things to say about the kind of person Jimmy was. In addition to those folks, there were also those who run nonprofit charities. There was apparently an endless number of charities Jimmy Buffett contributed his time and name to. He seemed to be the kind of guy who made a point to give back.
This morning, Kenny Chesney posted a video, sitting on a beach chair somewhere, singing a Jimmy Buffett song, to and empty beach… barely holding back the tears. He ended it with a simple “goodbye” to his friend.
I read some obituaries. Tributes to Jimmy. These are the papers and magazines, which have a habit of calling the deceased a “complicated character. “… or something similar, before telling the darker parts of their story. A search of obits to Jimmy were noticeably missing these sorts of parting criticisms. He seemed to be universally liked.
Instead, the stories focused on his free and happy lifestyle, and how he’d maintained a massively loyal following for nearly 5 decades … easily selling out stadiums.
I’m sure Jimmy wasn’t perfect. Who is. Who among us can navigate this life without making some mistakes? But apparently Jimmy knew how to make amends and do right by his mistakes in a way that left him appreciated and liked by those who knew him. As well as those who didn’t personally know him.
James Taylor wrote, “Jimmy Buffett was a real example of a man; no puffed up, defensive, macho, bullshit, and a model of how to enjoy the great gift of being alive and that’s what he shared so generously with us… a positive attitude about being here.”
This sentiment was echoed by so many of the tributes I read. And I think that’s what made his music enjoyable to listen to.
Summer days in my town are generally sunny and in the 90s range. But the last three days have been rainy, overcast and drab. At the same time hurricanes are messing up weather all over the country…. It’s probably a coincidence… But it seems to set an appropriate mood for a world without Jimmy Buffett in it.
Jimmy’s music and way of living is a reminder to live life as though it matters. Do good things and sing happy songs.
Live life from the Soul. And don’t let it all break you.
“Some of it’s magic. Some of it’s tragic.” But we can all have “a good life all the way.”