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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

What did Jimmy Buffett, parrot heads and Margaritaville actually imply?


Over the course of his profession, Buffett earned their love by remodeling himself right into a sort of musical shaman who provided transport from the banalities of on a regular basis life to the bounty of a never-never land of everlasting solar, limitless sandy seashores and bottomless boat drinks: Margaritaville.

As a younger fan within the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties, I marveled on the energy of Buffett’s music to hold his viewers to this improbable utopia, seeing in it nothing greater than a little bit of innocent enjoyable.

However as I matured and ultimately grew to become a professor of philosophy, I got here to see Buffett’s music as much less an expression of optimistic pleasure-seeking and extra a mirrored image of a profoundly pessimistic evaluation of the trials and tribulations of life. Now his work strikes me as a more in-depth companion to the pessimistic conclusions of the Nineteenth-century thinker Arthur Schopenhauer than to the hedonism of leisure tradition.

I see this hidden pessimism – which underlies most of Buffett’s music – as the important thing to its enduring energy and attract.

An escape to Saint Someplace

Half troubadour and half journey agent, Buffett has lengthy been within the enterprise of promoting escape.

Escapism was not solely the driving power and centerpiece of his 30 studio albums and the principle plotline of his three novels. It was additionally the center and soul of his billion-dollar enterprise empire, which included two restaurant chains, a line of frozen dinners and a fleet of inns and casinos.

These myriad merchandise, as their various taglines and advertising and marketing campaigns tout, promise to hold their client away from the monotony of suburbia to the galleys of some imaginary Caribbean Island – “Saint Someplace,” as Buffett put it in his 1979 hit “Boat Drinks.”

Buffett readily admitted his dedication to supplying his followers with some reduction from actuality. In his 2004 look on “60 Minutes,” he gleefully professed, “I promote escapism.” When interviewed by Sports activities Illustrated in 2007 he mentioned, “I’m simply doing my half so as to add a bit of extra escapism to an in any other case loopy world.”

The query stays, nonetheless: Why are individuals so persistently drawn to Buffett’s particular model of escapism? Or to escapism typically?

Answering this query uncovers the pessimistic coronary heart of Buffett’s work.

Just a bit reduction

Buffett himself ventured a solution to this query within the afterword of his 2004 novel, “A Salty Piece of Land”: “… now, greater than ever, we don’t simply get pleasure from our escapism – we NEED it.”

For Buffett, escapism was not merely one thing enjoyable, some fiddling flight of fancy that may be taken up or discarded at will.

It’s one thing important to our survival – one thing that, as he put it in his 1974 observe “Attempting to Cause with the Hurricane Season,” “cleans [us] out” in order that it’s attainable to maneuver on with life.

To like the music of Jimmy Buffett, in different phrases, is to not love life. It’s to pessimistically admit that life is tough and that it must be escaped each infrequently simply to be endured.

In Buffett’s music one catches a glimpse, nonetheless fleeting and even false, of the chance that someplace on the market, someplace past the persistent struggles and disappointment of life, there lies “someplace heat,” as he places it: some utopia the place all our fears and anxieties could be wiped away and we are able to heal from no matter grieves us, whether or not the heartache of a breakup or the trauma of getting “[blown] out a flip-flop,” or “stepped on a pop prime.”

“Once I look out at my viewers,” Buffett famous in a 1998 interview with Time journal, “I see people who find themselves caring for growing older dad and mom and coping with powerful jobs, adolescent youngsters, and so they seem like they may use a bit of reduction.”

And that’s what he endeavored to present them: a bit of reduction from the woes and worries of their lives.

The position of excellent artwork and good music

Buffett’s first large hit, “Come Monday,” originated from his personal want to flee a very darkish interval of life.

“I used to be deathly depressed and dwelling in Howard Johnson’s in Marin County,” he confessed to David Letterman in 1983, “and this tune saved me from killing myself.”

Happily, he defined to Letterman, “it hit, and I used to be in a position to pay my hire and get my canine out of the pound.” It was his capability to reply to the overwhelming difficulties of life on this spirit of comedic melancholia that made Buffett’s music so particular.

His songs acknowledge what everybody already is aware of to be true: that life will be excruciatingly painful and is usually an excessive amount of to bear, however that one should nonetheless discover a technique to transfer on. It’s this pessimistic subtext to Buffett’s escapism that made it so achingly irresistible.

On this sense, Buffett’s music exemplifies what the Nineteenth-century pessimistic thinker Arthur Schopenhauer considered the last word energy of artwork.

To Schopenhauer, good artwork grows from a recognition of the difficulties of life, and it endeavors to reply to them by providing a momentary respite from its in any other case relentless slings and arrows.

For these causes, Schopenhauer noticed in artwork – and in music, particularly – a means of escaping actuality, of being carried away right into a fantasy land that everybody is aware of can by no means exist, however that’s nonetheless comforting to ponder.

The worth of artwork, in line with Schopenhauer’s pessimistic perspective, comes from the way it creates an imaginary house the place one can momentarily conceal from actuality to summon the braveness to proceed on – and maybe to even study from that hiatus how one can chuckle on the gallows that confront each dwelling creature.

By this pessimistic measure, Buffett’s music was excessive artwork, for what it did so effectively was to assist its listeners to flee the onslaught of recent life and train them to chuckle once more – not in hedonistic ignorance of its difficulties, however regardless of them. What Buffett and all of his followers secretly know is that such escapist reveries are usually not merely an non-compulsory lark however a needed software for survival.

As Buffett himself put it in his 1977 hit “Modifications in Latitudes, Modifications in Attitudes,” “If we couldn’t chuckle we might all go insane.”

Drew M. Dalton is Professor of Philosophy, Dominican College.

This text is republished from The Dialog underneath a Artistic Commons license. Learn the authentic article.


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