In Defense of Parrotheads — Really, There Is a Defense

Parrotheads on the loose. (Photo courtesy Jody Jones)

Oh, haters. You just love to hate on my boy Jimmy Buffett.

Do you think he’s too pedestrian? Too conformist? Too old? Too old school? Too silly? I can’t seem to figure it out.

Perhaps you’ve only heard the ubiquitous party anthems “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. They’re simple, harmless songs. Sure, they can get annoying — but anything can, if you hear it too much.

Buffett has penned tons of those types of tunes— songs like “One Particular Harbor” and “Boat Drinks”. It’s all good fun.

And those of us who dig him? We really love this shit. We like being transported to a place where sand in your shoes and waves crashing on the beach removes us from the mundane.

I have to credit my brother-in-law for introducing me to Buffett when I was 18.  Just beginning college, I was struggling with my mother’s imminent death, and Buffett took the edge off by giving me an escape. Ed took me to concerts and I found a way to connect, laugh and smile. And get to know my new bro.

Jimmy’s music, with its mellow and skilled guitar playing — and rockin’ percussion section — makes for a joyful, energtic fan base and a really fun show. He’s a poet at heart, a sailor and singer by trade, a writer of half-truths and lies, as well as those poignant and silly.

As is true for most Parrotheads, I’ve seen Jimmy play many, many times. From huge stadiums to very intimate venues. My two favorites were his concert in Paris, a small space compared to many he has played, and the time I saw Jimmy and the other famous Buffett (Warren) play and sing together at a benefit dinner.

Yeah, so we “Parrotheads” — of which I proudly declare I am one — wear grass skirts, leis and coconut bras to shows. One time we commandeered a Winnebago for the all-day tailgate, which is full of folks in shark costumes and sombreros and pirate gear, hanging next to blown-up baby pools stocked with beer and lots of stuffed (and often real!) parrots. Of course.

But lest you think it’s all fun and games, the guy’s got a soulful, thoughtful side, too.

Buffett hails from New Orleans, and still calls it home. Have you heard his tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina? It’s called “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On”.

“And it rained, It was nothing really new
And it blew, we’ve seen all that before
And it poured, the Earth began to strain
Pontchartrain leaking through the door, tides at war

If a hurricane doesn’t leave you dead
It will make you strong
Don’t try to explain it just nod your head
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On”

This is a good guy who does his damnedest to please his fans and leave the world better than he found it.

He’s created businesses and jobs around the globe with his Margaritaville restaurants and the Landshark Bar and Grill. He also owns the Margaritaville Beach Hotel in Pensacola, Florida.

Not to mention his humanitarian endeavors.

Jimmy created Singing for Change, an initiative that provides grants for people trying to make a difference in their communities. The foundation focuses their resources on “inclusive, grassroots organizations that rely strongly on volunteer efforts, where foundation support makes a significant difference.

Many years prior, Jimmy also started the nonprofit Save the Manatee Club, with the mission to preserve natural habitats and create awareness in Sunshine State communities to save Florida’s endangered mammal.

How does Lorde stack up to that?

Margaritaville is a place right out of Jimmy’s imagination. It’s a lifestyle and a state of mind. It’s a place where bikinis and flip-flops are as formal as it gets. It’s a place of dreaming, but also a place where there’s no need to dream, because here and now is pretty dang great. The worst things that can happen to you in Margaritaville? A sunburn and a hangover. And perhaps a frozen concoction-fueled tattoo.

I know I can’t change your minds about my favorite son of a son of a sailor. But before you hate, remember that hate is a pretty strong word. And hating — or even simply dissing — a guy who brings so much peace, pleasure and fellowship to so many people might not be the best use of your annoyance.

Breathe in, breathe out, move on.

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What do you think?

2 Responses

  1. Editor’s Note: Lighters Up | Tue Night

    […] In Defense of Parrotheads — Really, There Is a Defense […]

  2. PattrickLewis

    Fantastic article.  Just great. One correction, however:  Jimmy grew up on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.  His ties to New Orleans only came later when he’d drive there on the weekends to play gigs and do some busking (street performances) on Royal Street in the French Quarter.  He also lost his virginity there.  But to say he “hails” from New Orleans is just not correct.


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