Rest in Power Jimmy Buffet
The first time I’d ever heard of Jimmy Buffet was in a honkytonk in Germany. Growing up in the suburban Midwest of the 1950s and 60s, I had never been exposed to country western music, much less reggae, or whatever genre it is that Buffet commanded. And given that my parents didn’t have alcohol in the house, I had no idea what a margarita was.
But by 1977 I was working on an American Air Force base in Germany, where the in place to be right after work was a small, dimly lit bar with little more than a pool table and a jukebox filled with what everyone called shitkicker tunes.
Margaritaville was one of the favorites, played by almost everyone who dropped a quarter for three songs. That song with its catchy rhythm and easy lyrics, compelling any body alive to move to the beat, fit right into my vocal range. The words might not have made much sophisticated or emotional sense, but I learned to love singing them.
Wasted away again was almost an anthem for that bar and the NCOs who frequented it, despite them all drinking mostly beer and occasionally scotch. I drank white wine served in a water glass, and no one I ever saw ordered a margarita. I don’t think the bartender even knew how to make one, and there was no blender to render the frozen concoction to help us hang on.
Not everyone sang along with Buffet through the whole song, but when he got to the line some people claim there’s a woman to blame, nearly every male voice rose up loud and proud. I tended to emphasize the following line of but I know it’s your own damn fault. Good natured and slightly abashed laughter usually ensued.
Today’s news of the passing of Jimmy Buffet has taken me back to that bar, where the cracking sounds of pool balls smacking into each other punctuated the music. Mental ghostly images of long ago players hunched over, calling stripes or solids, or standing back chalking their cues for the next hit, crowd my memories and strain my ability to recall their names. Brent the security police sergeant, Allen the avionics guy, George from the comms squadron, Ross a personnel admin manager, Frank the bartender, and so many others I knew by sight but not by name bubble up into consciousness today.
It was the music as much as the booze and friendly competition that united us. I’ve missed that kind of camaraderie since I left Germany. It was an unrepeatable experience, one of the best times of my life.
Thank you, thank you Jimmy Buffet for adding to those unforgettable and treasured moments in time. Rest in power now where your six strings will entertain a new audience.