In 2017, “Escape from Margaritaville," a musical based on Jimmy Buffett, premiered locally as a pre-Broadway tryout run at The Saenger. The young actor who played Buffett did a good job with a challenging role. The show is about a Caribbean bartender/singer who meets a serious minded woman tourist, and the two ultimately make music together. It was as fun and upbeat as his music could be. I liked it; the crowd liked it. And what everyone liked especially was that during the standing ovation at the end, Buffett himself walked on stage and performed a few songs. It was a great night. Unfortunately, once the show got to Broadway the New York critics showed that they were not Parrotheads. They just didn’t get it and the musical had only a brief run, although it has survived as a road show.
If only those critics had listened to more than his music (which was probably too much a mixture of country and Caribbean for them), but studied his lyrics they would have realized that the song writer who sold himself as a beach bum was actually a genius.
In these days of mourning for Buffet, I draw attention to his words, some of my favorite were from his breakthrough hit “Margaritaville." In it he seeks to be in a funk in some island town. He makes the unconvincing argument that his mood had nothing to do with a woman, and blames himself instead:
Wastin' away again in Margaritaville Searchin' for my lost shaker of salt Some people claim that there's a woman to blame But I know, it's nobody's fault
Just as the situation get worse, there is some comfort ahead:
I blew out my flip flop Stepped on a pop top Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home But there's booze in the blender And soon it will render That frozen concoction that helps me hang on
In the last stanza he pleads guilty, shifting his message from saying that whatever happened was “nobody’s fault” to:
Yes, and some people claim That there's a woman to blame And I know, it's my own damn fault
Buffett’s “Come Monday” is in a class by itself. Last week, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of The Los Angeles Times described the song as, “a gorgeous soft-rock single in which his pining for a distant lover feels comforting, not sad. Its warmth emanates from the loveliest Buffett melody ever composed — it sighs and sways with romantic grace.”
In the song Buffett, who has taken a trip to Los Angeles longed for his return to San Francisco and a certain “honey”:
Headin' out to San Francisco For the Labor Day weekend show I got my Hush Puppies on I guess I never was meant for glitter rock 'n' roll And honey, I didn't know that I'd be missin' you so
And then the memorable refrain:
Come Monday, it'll be alright Come Monday, I'll be holdin' you tight I spent four lonely days in a brown L.A haze And I just want you back by my side
My favorite Buffett song is “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” I remember the moment I first heard it. We were getting on a boat for a day trip from Marco Island (Near Naples, Florida) to Key West. As fellow passengers climbed onboard Jimmy Buffett songs were played on the ship’s loudspeaker. “Wow, what’s that song?” I asked myself. The lyrics became self-evident.
In interviews, Buffett has explained that the song was inspired by having been stranded in a boating mishap. Once rescued, as fate would have it, there was a burger stand which provided relief.
In lyrics Buffett modified the story to tell of someone rebelling against his state of vegetarianism and yearning to be a meat-eater again:
Tried to amend my carnivorous habit Made it nearly 70 days Losing weight without speed, eating sunflower seeds Drinking lots of carrot juice and soaking up rays
But at night I'd have these wonderful dreams Some kind of sensuous treat Not zucchini fettucini or bulgur wheat But a big warm bun and a huge hunk of meat
And then the refrain:
I like mine with lettuce and tomato Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer Well, good God almighty which way do I steer For my
Cheeseburger in paradise. Making the best of every virtue and vice Worth every damn bit of sacrifice.
My guess is that the New York critics who panned the Buffett show were in the carrot juice and bulgur wheat crowd. Good for them, but they do not always know what they are missing.
From time to time, we can all use a sunrise in Paradise.