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First is because it, along with Buffett’s trademark tune, “Margaritaville,” have occupied the nation’s airwaves since his death earlier this month.
The other two go back much further.
On June 7, 1974, “Come Monday” was playing on the car radio — promptly Supergluing itself to my brain — as I pulled into St. Mary’s to fetch my wife and our 3-day-old daughter, Megan, home from the hospital.
On April 10, 1994, that same daughter, now a college sophomore, was standing beside me in Thompson-Boling Arena. We were laughing, clapping and singing along with 18,000 other fans as Buffett and his Coral Reefer band performed “Come Monday” on stage.Allow me to quote from my News Sentinel column that ran two days after the concert:
“There’s only one thing that makes me wince, if ever-so-slightly. Megan knows more of the words to more of the songs than I do. It is not lost on her father that she can, and does, belt out ‘good times and riches and son-of-a-bitches, I’ve seen more than I can recall!’ from ‘Changes in Latitudes.’ Not to mention the entirety of his country music parody, ‘Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw.’
“Serves me right. Her mother used to scowl and hiss, ‘Sam!’ in her best school-teacher voice when I would rock our babies to sleep with selections from my Buffett collection.
“But all is forgiven on a night like this. Jimmy Buffett has given the Baby Boom generation, plus selected offspring, a valid excuse for setting aside the rules of decorum when need be.
It’s like the marvelous sermonette I overheard years ago when I worked at a Louisiana duck-hunting club. A father arrived for a two-day outing with his 12-year-old son. He put an arm around the boy and said, ‘Pardner, there’s home talk and there’s camp talk. You’re about to learn the difference.’”
Such was the essence, and the paradox, of James William Buffett.
He projected a boozy tropical lifestyle. But beneath that façade was a corporate mentality and a cast-iron work ethic.
In music, today’s superstars are tomorrow’s nobodies. Yet Buffett spent half a century playing to packed houses and selling millions of records.
He was a successful writer, authoring best-selling books in both fiction and nonfiction. He established a popular chain of Margaritaville hotels and restaurants. And from everything I’ve read, remained one of the kindest, friendliest people in show business.
Not bad for a beach bum with a bloody heel limping home on a blown-out flip-flop.
Sam Venable’s column appears every Sunday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Sam Venable: Jimmy Buffett’s music bridged all generation gaps