A Big Emptiness This Summer

Since I first discovered his music early in college in the mid-80’s, I have been hooked on Jimmy Buffett.  In fact, every summer almost the first thing I would do was to look and see where he was playing close to where I was and make plans to go see him.  It was a 35 year quest to do that and I saw him so many times, I truly lost count.  

In all my years of working in television, I only met him once and that was a quick interview.  He asked me, “what is your favorite song not on the Songs You Know By Heart album?”  Without hesitation, I replied, “The Wino and I Know.”  He took a step back and smiled and said, ‘Thank you.  That is one my favorite songs and I might just have to add that back to the tour.”  Away he went to the next interview but I would search set lists years later to see if it was on there and if in the back of his mind said, “this is for that guy in Nashville.”  

This summer though, it has an odd feel.  He passed away in September of 2023 and no more of the looking up to see where he is going to be close to me.  I guess the older I get, the more emotions I show, but for some reason this really has bugged me to no end.  It is almost as if I am mourning the loss of a loved one and maybe it is.  I listened to that Songs album a billion times.  I listened to all of the other albums at least as much so yeah, I do consider him family. 

I was asked why I loved his music so much and I guess like any musician, their songs hit you right in the heart and deep.  I have always looked at this way—–If your music can make me forget about the world and the problems for even the slightest bit, I am hooked for life. 

I will often think back when I am listening to his music of him playing that song at Starwood and where I was in my life at that time.  There, Birmingham, Cincinnati, Indy, Orlando, Tampa, Charlotte, Dallas, etc., all come to mind when I listen to his music and places I saw him. 

This summer though, there is a big emptiness.  It is a weird feeling as if I am missing something and I need to search for it but knowing I am not going to find it.  As he said, ‘Where it all ends, I can’t fathom my friends, If I knew I might toss out my anchor.”  Still, I search and it might make me crazy but remember, if we weren’t all crazy we would go insane.  

Don McLean wrote, “I cant remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride.  But something touched me deep inside, the day the music died.”  I understand that completely but in this case, the music will never die.  Yes, the experiences and the concerts and the live shows with some of the greatest friends will never happen again, but as Dr. Seuss so eloquently put it, “Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.”

Amen to all of that.  Memories and moments.  You are a lucky person if you have both. 

“Ice cream man, he is a hillbilly fan; got 78’s by Hank Snow.  Walks down the street, shufflin’ his feet to the rhythm that only he knows.”  Absolute perfection.  Thank you for summers that were and are worth more than all the gold in the world.  

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