Farewell to Jimmy Buffett

As Ferry to Cooperation Island was going to press, the publisher asked if there was anything special I’d like to add to the opening pages. All I could think of was the song that had played in my head as I was writing and editing: “Island,” by Jimmy Buffett. 

So, after gratefully receiving permission, I included the lyrics in the front matter. 

There is, of course, a Jimmy Buffett song for just about every occasion (and several great books too), so it should be no surprise that he’d already covered what I was trying to convey in my fourth novel: the push-pull between isolation and insulation of life on a small island. And now that he’s gone on to the great harbor in the sky, it should be even less of a surprise how huge the hole is that he’s left behind. 

I know of no other person so universally loved by sailors and powerboaters alike. I don’t consider myself a Parrothead, but I can sing along with hundreds of his songs—and each one takes me right back to the moment when I first heard it. As a teenager and twenty-something, I spent way too many hours trying to decide which One Particular Harbor was actually my personal favorite—before realizing that having several candidates was okay, because metaphors are actually more effective if they’re not taken too damn literally. Another album seemed to have been written just for the breakup I was living through at the time; an excellent example of Buffett’s ability to cover universal themes in personal, memorable words that made everyone feel like he “saw” us.

Losing this icon just as another Labor Day weekend rolled around seemed especially poignant. Rafted with friends in one of Buffett’s own favorite harbors, we listened all day to a smorgasbord of his music—and caught earfuls of familiar tunes from nearby boats, both power and sail. That evening, over Boat Drinks and a cockpit feast of Cheeseburgers in Paradise, we shared stories of favorite albums and live concerts and unexpected Buffett regatta sightings. While all around us, we were certain that other sailors (and powerboaters too) were sharing similar stories and sightings and sighs.

In a world where so many things divide us, Jimmy Buffett united us all with a common dream: escaping on a boat to a tropical paradise. As we say goodbye to an era, a life’s soundtrack, and the man who made so many of us laugh and cry about a life well lived on the water, I’m going to let him take us out with the words that have been playing in my head ever since I heard the sad news:

“It was a pleasure and a hell of an evening; truly was our night to win. But the authorities insist on my leaving… take care, my American friend.”

12 Replies to “Farewell to Jimmy Buffett”

  1. Fantastic post Carol,

    Thanks for the memories, and bringing up the point he always emphasized.

    “because metaphors are actually more effective if they’re not taken too damn literally”.

    1. Thanks Paul! One of the many things I learned from Buffett, all without realizing I was being educated in life and not just singing along.

  2. Carol, You like Buffett, have eloquently expressed our feelings at this moment in time. We are so happy we had the opportunity to celebrate the life of this man with good friends. He continues to impact our lives. WWJBD?

    1. Thanks Teri, agreed with all! And I think the answer to the WWJBD question is almost always: GO SAILING! 🙂

  3. Thank you for this poignantly emotional post, Carol. While I, too, am not a Parrothead, I am a full-time musician who returned home to southern New England two years ago, after playing the beach bar scene in Tampa Bay for 15 years. I had a big chunk of de rigeur JB tunes in my song bag and will be playing some at a private party in Jamestown this weekend. That’s only fitting given the locale, right? Thanks also for mentioning Jimmy’s books; they’re well written and fun reads.

    Btw…I myself developed a facial melanoma skin cancer in Florida, which was found up here during a routine dermatology visit and removed. Seriously, be careful out there, folks.

    It’s remarkable that Jimmy’s last performance happened in RI, just up the road from the Jamestown/Newport area, in helping a good friend & bandmate. That was just Jimmy, ill as he was. I’ll close with these lyrics from a song he didn’t write, but, boy, did he ever pick a good one to describe himself:

    Yes I’ll make a resolution
    That I’ll never make another one
    Just enjoy this ride on my trip around the sun

  4. Larry, thanks for this. I’m hoping Jimmy’s legacy will now help us all be better about sun protection. So great that you’re playing Buffett this weekend!

  5. I think his song “Sending The Old Man Home” is apropos here. We played that song at the burial of my Mother/Father In Law’s ashes (he was a WWII submariner). It was supposed to be funny – it was in a very odd way graveside in Glensted MO at the corner of two dirt roads with the locals thinking “that’s not the regular way” – but turned out to be (and still is) quite emotional.

  6. Thanks for your great inciteful writing again Carol. Likewise, “I don’t consider myself a Parrothead, but I can sing along with hundreds of his songs.” My dad was a huge fan of JB’s, which definitely ratcheted up the hit when I heard that he had passed. Been listening to no one else in the car since that night. So many memories so deeply intertwined with his music. I saw Buffet play an unannounced gig at the original Margaritaville bar in KW in 1990, that was something. Missed seeing him at BIRW 2 years ago, never went to a show. I feel like I missed out. Definitely gone too soon, but you just know he’s living in whatever moment that comes next

    1. Thanks Dan. I only saw him live once and still regret not buying the T-shirt, which said on the back “I used to rule my world from a payphone.” So much wisdom!

  7. At least twice at his recent concerts he would sing “when my hair is full grey and I finally disappear” and quickly add “not yet”. And laugh. I don’t know what he knew, how he felt but it was a reminder for me of the precious moments we have and to recognize them as such

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