Jimmy Buffett, who has branded a hedonistic, laid-back style based on lazing around the Caribbean drinking margaritas, performs Tuesday at KeyArena. It is his first Seattle appearance in nearly a decade.
Try finding Margaritaville on a map.
It’s not a real town, of course (though Key West comes close). It’s a state of mind. A fantasy destination when you need a break from the 9-to-5 grind. A place to enjoy sun, surf, song and a tequila-based cocktail with a little salt around the rim.
Buffett’s signature tune, “Margaritaville,” a breakthrough hit from his 1977 album, “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” defines the laid-back Caribbean lifestyle that never seems to lose its escapist appeal: “I don’t know the reason/ I stayed here all season/ Nothin’ to show but this brand-new tattoo … .” (A so-called “lost verse” about “old men in tank tops/ cruisin’ the gift shops” rarely turns up.)
Buffett could have been a one-hit wonder, but the catchy songs with clever, singalong lyrics just kept coming: “Come Monday,” “Fins,” “Volcano,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Why Don’t We Get Drunk,” “Havana Daydreamin’ ” and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” a duet with Alan Jackson honored as “vocal event of the year” at the 2003 Country Music Academy Awards.
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It’s been more than nine years since Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band performed in the Seattle area, and his hard-core fans (dubbed “parrot-
heads”) are surely rejoicing at the prospect of seeing the 65-year-old icon Tuesday night at KeyArena. They’ll be dressed like Halloween pirates for a boisterous evening of classic songs.
The concert is part of Buffett’s “Lounging at the Lagoon” tour, a summer trek that continues into autumn like a balmy Bahama breeze.
The tour coincides with the newly released CD/DVD set, “Welcome to Fin City (Live From Las Vegas),” recorded in October 2011.
The Alabama native began his career in Nashville in the late ’60s as a country artist but settled in Key West in the early ’70s after traveling there with singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker.
Key West inspired a Caribbean-flavored blend of gritty folk and country later dubbed “gulf and western” (brother-in-law Tom McGuane, who wrote the script for the movie “Rancho Deluxe,” described Buffett’s music as existing “at the curious hinterland where Hank Williams and Xavier Cugat meet”).
According to Forbes magazine, Buffett is among the world’s richest musicians, as well as author of three New York Times best-sellers (“Tales from Margaritaville,” “Where Is Joe Merchant?” and “A Pirate Looks at Fifty”), owner of the Margaritaville restaurant chain and creator of Radio Margaritaville, the Internet radio station.
He’s more workaholic than beach bum, though he does own a home on the laid-back Caribbean island of St. Barts.
In a rare 2009 interview with “60 Minutes,” Buffett shared an anecdote from his early days in Nashville to illustrate what motivated him to succeed.
“I can only say that the first thing that pops into my mind is (that) I remember years ago seeing kind of a has-been country singer working … in a bar in a Holiday Inn,” Buffett said. “And it was obvious that it had been somebody that’d been there and come back down, and I never wanted to make that run back down: ‘Remember me back in 1977? I had this one hit, ‘Margaritaville.’ ” I did not want to be one of those people.”
Buffett’s vast wealth should ensure he never will be.
Last year, pundits suggested that the (Warren) Buffett Rule, a tax plan proposed by President Obama and named for the wealthy investor, was so absurd that it should be renamed the Jimmy Buffett Rule (the two Buffetts are not related).
“You know how that works, right?” wrote Fox News Channel political analyst Ellis Henican. “For the folks who own really big sailboats and shelter their wealth on islands with swaying palm trees, it’s always margarita time! Go ahead and squeeze the middle class some more!”
Gene Stout: firstname.lastname@example.org