It’s five o’clock somewhere

Published 8:53 am Thursday, September 7, 2023

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Mother, Mother Ocean has made her call and Jimmy Buffett has set sail into a glorious sunset for the final time.

Buffett, the originator of what can best be described as Tropical Rock, inspired legions of fans worldwide – including yours truly.

His laid-back style complimented his seashore attire at concerts where he appeared on stage in Hawaiian shirts, Bermuda shorts, and, of course, flip flops (sometimes bare-footed). I wouldn’t doubt for a single second that there was a picture full of margaritas nearby.

James William Buffett passed away Friday morning, Sept. 1, at his home in Sag Harbor, a small village on Long Island, NY. He was 76 years young.

My vast collection of classic vinyl albums includes several by Buffett….A1A (released in 1974), Living and Dying in 3/4 Time (1974), and You Had to be There (1978).

He was a master storyteller, but most journalists are. Early in his adult life he wrote for Billboard Magazine and later was a very successful author who had number one best-sellers on both the fiction and non-fiction lists of the New York Times Book Review.

With a recording career that spanned 50-plus years, Buffett is perhaps best known for such hits as “Margaritaville,” “Come Monday,” “Fins”, “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” His concerts were sell-outs and there was always a sideshow in the parking lots of those venues prior to the event where his most steadfast fans – aka Parrot Heads” – would gather in their colorful Caribbean-themed outfits and props. I’m well-aware of that fact as I’ve seen Buffett twice in live concerts.

His songs were a blend of folk, country and Caribbean music with lyrics that often reflected his world travels. A pilot and a sailor, Buffett wrote songs about his plane being shot at by Jamaican police (“Jamaica Mistaica”), getting lost in the Sahara Desert (“Buffet Hotel”) and smugglers he had known around the Florida Gulf Coast (“A Pirate Looks at 40”).

That latter song was my personal favorite.

“Mother, mother ocean, I have heard you call. Wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall. You’ve seen it all, you’ve seen it all.

“Watched the men who rode you, switch from sails to steam. And in your belly, you hold the treasures few have ever seen. Most of ’em dream, most of ’em dream.

“Yes, I am a pirate, two hundred years too late. The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothin’ to plunder, I’m an over-forty victim of fate. Arriving too late, arriving too late.”

And, as there are with most successful artists, there are “deep tracks”, less familiar songs on their albums that nonetheless strike a cord of popularity. One of my favorite deep tracks is “Migration” – the final song on the A1A album.

“Look’in back at my background tryin’ to figure out how I ever got here. Some things are still a mystery to me while others are much too clear.

“I’m just livin’ in the sunshine, stay contented most of the time. Yeah, listenin to Murphy, Walker and Willie sing me their Texas rhymes…….

“Well now, if I ever live to be an old man, I’m gonna sail down to Martinique. I’m gonna buy me a sweat stained Bogart suit and an African parakeet.

“And then I’ll sit him on my shoulder and open up my trusty old mind. I’m gonna teach him how to fuss, teach him how to cuss, and pull the cork out of a bottle of wine.”

And while this simple man, born in Mississippi on Christmas Day in 1946, loved to give his fans their money’s worth at his concerts, there was also an entrepreneurial side of Jimmy Buffett. He was the brains behind the launch of mega-successful Margaritaville hotels, restaurants, and retirement communities. He also founded Land Shark beer.

Tributes to this iconic musician and businessman have been non-stop since this past weekend. I chose to share two that I felt as the most poignant:

“He had a most amazing lust for life and a beautiful sense of humour,” said Paul McCartney. “When we swapped tales about the past, his were so exotic and lush and involved sailing trips and surfing and so many exciting stories that it was hard for me to keep up with him.

“Right up to the last minute his eyes still twinkled with a humour that said, ‘I love this world and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it’. So many of us will miss Jimmy and his tremendous personality. His love for us all, and for mankind as a whole,” McCartney added.

McCartney said he played on one of Buffett’s most recent studio sessions.

“We had a real fun session and he played me some of his new songs. One, in particular, I loved was the song, ‘Bubbles Up’. He turned a diving phrase that is used to train people underwater into a metaphor for life…when you’re confused and don’t know where you are just follow the bubbles – they’ll take you up to the surface and straighten you out right away,” McCartney said.

And then there’s this tribute from legendary singer/songwriter James Taylor:

“Jimmy Buffett invented his own character, which, in a sense we all do: invent, assemble, inherit, or fall into our inner identity. But Jimmy was the founder of an actual tribe: tens of thousands of us made our way to where he was holding court, just to be near him.

“People say he was a lord of life and that’s true: somewhere between Falstaff and the pirate, Jean Laffite. But to me, my friend Jimmy Buffet was a real example of a man: no puffed up defensive macho [expletive deleted], but a model of how to enjoy the great gift of being alive. And that’s what he shared so generously with us: a positive enthusiasm at being here. That so few of us knew how ill he was is essential Jimmy Buffett: he had no intention of burdening us with his illness,” Taylor summed up.

Sail on, my pirate…here’s hoping you finally find that lost shaker of salt.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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