Why Jimmy Buffett Isn't Completely Worthless

Chances are you've found yourself, at one point or another, on the periphery of Jimmy Buffett culture.

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Perhaps you have a regrettable and somewhat unsettling aunt who prides herself on being a "Parrot-head," who comes to family reunions in a busy Hawaiian shirt and more than a little bargain rum, trying to get you, or anyone else within earshot, to do that cringe-inducing "Salt! Salt!" thing. "Yes, she's fun," your mother warns you, "but I don't want you winding up like that." Perhaps you have a friend who owns Jimmy Buffett's greatest hits, Songs You Know By Heart (the one with the Hulk Hogan-esque front cover -- you've at least seen it on sale at Wal-Mart for $5.99) and insists on playing it at every summer party. Perhaps you've decided -- and rightfully so! -- that Jimmy Buffet is maybe just the absolute worst, and that you hate him, and never need to hear another song of his again. But here's the rub: we need Jimmy Buffet. Now more than ever.

If you'll indulge a brief interlude: I just got back from a beach vacation (and yes, I was that annoying person who brought along Songs You Know By Heart -- more on that in a minute!), where I ended up wishing things were just a little more Buffett, a little more it's-5-o'clock-somewhere, a little more booze-and-pot-addled and unhinged. The following annoyances/inconveniences met my girlfriend and me while we tried to have fun on the coast: the possibility of a $250 fine for bringing our dog onto any one of the three beaches we visited, a similar fine for making any noise past the octogenarian-bedtime-hour of 10 p.m., the impossibility of entering our campsite past the aforementioned hour, the prohibition of alcohol from the beach or the camping area or the state park or basically anywhere that wasn't selling it to you as a $10/glass piña colada with whipped cream on the top.

I'm not claiming that Jimmy Buffett could or would solve any of these problems. Indeed, his own line of Margaritaville® restaurants would surely charge double for that same piña colada. But it's the spirit of Jimmy Buffett, present in his songs and every sun-washed, pastel-hued picture of him I've ever seen, that I wish had a stronger presence on the beaches I visited. He's the embodiment of that persona, for better or worse, and I can't help but feel we've all but forgotten it. Yes, I know it's a cartoon. I know it's fake and an image he's selling. But still, despite every part of my better judgment, I kind of like it.

Call it generational. I'm not a boomer, and Jimmy Buffett seems like a decidedly boomer-esque construction, a Frankenstein monster created from discarded flip-flops, chipped pink buoy paint, and whatever kind of rope trawlers use. I might hate it if I'd been overexposed to it. Sure, it's cooler among my peers to rock Mac Demarco or Neon Indian or (guh) Best Coast, and maybe that'd accomplish the same damn thing. But I'm not sure it would. I'm not sure anyone can un-ironically use the line "soakin' up rays" in the same way that Jimmy Buffett does, or call a band the Coral Reefers and somehow get away with it.

I like Jimmy Buffet. I like how simple and dumb he makes things seem. I wish there was more Jimmy Buffett around.

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Derek Askey
Contact: Derek Askey