Editorial: Jimmy Buffett, musician and prophet

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Jimmy Buffett, who died Friday, played the first-ever concert at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. How apt. He embodied the ethos of its friendly confines.

Nashville didn’t understand Buffett. Nor, for that matter, did Broadway. But the singer’s fans, Parrotheads by name, knew that Buffett was actually something of a prophet: He sang, fundamentally, of a world beyond work, a tuneful place of fun and cocktails, friendships and frolic, community and good times. Unsurprisingly, Chicago was a key locus of his fan base: Most of us dream of Caribbean pastel each and every January.

Like Dolly Parton, Buffett was an all-American unifier, serving up concerts that, as he once rightly told the Tribune, put people in a “state of exuberation.” However questionable the noun, he made it work. His fans would go back to their jobs the following Monday, perhaps better armed for the stress and the strain.

The most unlikely of moguls, Buffett was developing retirement homes along with his hotels and RV parks, designed to be places where the reward for a lifetime of toil never stopped. Better than staring at the walls.

Writing about Buffett on Labor Day seems incongruous, but, in fact, his personal brand was the embodiment of the rewards of hard work: a chance to kick back, have a good time, listen to some tunes, look for a lost shaker of salt.

Buffett also was a kindhearted man who loved Chicago. We once asked him about his retirement. “Retire from what?” was his answer.

The words of man who understood life’s meaning.

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