The purity of embracing the moment

Jimmy Buffet with guitar

The music of Jimmy Buffett has been described as ‘island escapism’ and tropical rock. Buffett died Sept. 1 at the age of 76 at his home in Sag Harbor, New York, of complications from a rare type of skin cancer.

When I was a senior in high school in 1977, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville came out that February, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.

It became kind of an anthem as graduation approached, similar to how the Class of 1972 might have felt when Alice Cooper’s School’s Out was released in April of that year.

Back in those days, the legal drinking age was 18. On our senior cruise I remember ordering a few margaritas, although I must confess, I never developed an affection for them. 

At graduation parties that year, I wore Hawaiian shirts that Buffett had helped popularize. But that was about the extent of my Buffett devotion.

Only over years of witnessing the intensity his music had on his so-called Parrothead fans — especially since his death Sept. 1 — have I come to realize what a profound effect his music has had among the listening public.

His lyrics celebrate the easy lifestyle, nature and self-contentment, but above all they celebrate the moment. The moment when you’ve had that second or third drink on your porch and life is pretty good. The moment of sailing the timeless ocean and feeling like you’re part of it. The moment of tasting a really good cheeseburger.

The genius about Buffett was that he embraced who he was. Even though his music fell somewhere between soft rock and easy listening, he didn’t try to change it to impress the critics. He knew what his lane was and he stayed in it.

While we Floridians celebrate him as our own because of his references and connections to Key West, the people of the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Alabama, where he was born and grew up, also claim him as their own. He also had a devoted base in New Orleans, where I once lived and saw him at a party. His Margaritaville restaurant and bar seemed pretty popular, though, in my opinion, its vibrant colors were too gaudy for the French Quarter

I only saw Buffett in concert once. It was February 1985, and he was playing without the Coral Reefer Band at the Florida Institute of Technology’s playing field in Melbourne. I was living in Sarasota County at the time and came over to see him. The Grant Seafood Festival was being held that same weekend, so we stopped there for some oysters before taking in the Buffett concert.

FIT was a smaller concert venue than he normally played and pretty much going solo made the concert intimate, as if he were strumming his six-string from his own front porch swing.

Enjoy that cheeseburger in paradise, Jimmy, and the comfort of always knowing where your shaker of salt is.

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Gregory Enns
Gregory Enns
Publisher at Space Coast Living Magazine

Publisher Gregory Enns is a fifth-generation Floridian whose family arrived in Titusville in 1891. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he started Indian River Magazine on the Treasure Coast in 2006. Indian River Media Group, the company he heads, now publishes seven magazines, including Space Coast Living, which was purchased in March. He is vice president of the Florida Magazine Association.