Song of the Day #1,127: ‘A Pirate Looks at Forty’ – Jimmy Buffett

I own one Jimmy Buffett album, and it’s my most dreaded type of record — a greatest hits collection.

It’s called Songs You Know By Heart, and chances are you have a copy as well. Doesn’t everybody? It’s up there with Bob Marley’s Legend in the ranks of albums that represent the only thing you really need to own by a prolific artist.

Parrotheads will find that sacrilegious, of course. They find treasures on every one of the man’s 20-something albums and the idea of narrowing that discography down to 13 songs must seem asinine. Same way I feel about a Bob Dylan Greatest Hits.

And really, who am I to doubt them? I’ve never heard a song off of the many Buffett albums from which those greatest hits were culled. Maybe many of those tracks are equal to or better than the collection I love.

Songs You Know By Heart is loaded with wonderful music, from the singalong pop of ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’ and ‘Fins’ to the lovely and introspective ‘Come Monday’ and ‘He Went to Paris.’ ‘Margaritaville’ alone is worth the sticker price. Is it possible that the man wrote 13 classics and the rest of his output is mediocre? I doubt it.

But I don’t see myself buying up the Jimmy Buffett catalog either, so I’ll make due with what I have and not worry about it. Life is filled with infinite paths not taken, experiences unlived. Don’t dwell on what you’re missing; rejoice in what you’ve found.

Mother, mother ocean, I have heard you call
Wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall
You’ve seen it all, you’ve seen it all

Watched the men who rode you switch from sails to steam
And in your belly you hold the treasures few have ever seen
Most of ’em dream, most of ’em dream

Yes I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothin’ to plunder
I’m an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late

I’ve done a bit of smugglin’, I’ve run my share of grass
I made enough money to buy Miami, but I pissed it away so fast
Never meant to last, never meant to last

And I have been drunk now for over two weeks
I passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks
But I got stop wishin’, got to go fishin’
Down to rock bottom again
Just a few friends, just a few friends


I go for younger women, lived with several awhile
Though I ran ’em away, they’d come back one day
Still could manage to smile
Just takes a while, just takes a while

Mother, mother ocean, after all the years I’ve found
My occupational hazard being my occupation’s just not around
I feel like I’ve drowned, gonna head uptown

I feel like I’ve drowned, gonna head uptown


10 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,127: ‘A Pirate Looks at Forty’ – Jimmy Buffett

  1. Amy says:

    Ummm…. yeah! I’ve only been saying some version of that for the past 1,126 days 🙂

    My cousin Scott’s roommate in college was a HUGE Buffett fan, so I heard some of those albums during my college years, and, as you suggested, I never noticed a clunker among the many gems we all know by heart. At one point, we went to see Jimmy Buffett in the O’Dome (as Gainesville’s O’Connell Center was more frequently called); it was an amazing show, filled with a probably mostly drunk audience giddily motioning along with their “fins to the left” and “fins to the right.” While it seemed incongruous to see Buffett there, among all of those college students, rather than on a beach somewhere surrounded by 40+ year old pirates (at heart), he demonstrated that he could play for any crowd anywhere and delight his audience..

    Still, despite my fond memories of those albums and that concert, I own one Buffett album – Songs You Know By Heart – and I’ve never given it a second thought. Of course, it sits near my Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, and my James Taylor’s Greatest Hits albums, and I appreciate/love both of those artists a great deal.

    As you well know, I’ve never been a music purist. When I’m in a Buffett mood, I want to hear “Come Monday” and today’s SOTD. When I want to hear James Taylor, a set filled with “Fire and Rain,” “Sweet Baby James,” and “Carolina on My Mind” will do just fine. And there are just too many artists and too few listening hours in the week for me to worry about what I might be missing. All of that is to say I appreciate you adopting my philosophy if only for a single day, and a single artist! 🙂

  2. Dana says:

    Wow! You espousing this philosophy does, as Amy suggests, fly in the face of everything you have said about being a “completist.” Has someone taken over your very soul?

    My theory on you with someone like Buffett is two fold, maybe three fold….First, I think that if you truly loved this collection of songs in the way you loved songs by someone like Dylan, you would have gone with your completist tendencies and gobbled up his collection, or at least bought a few critically well reviewed records to see if you needed to go “all in.” Second, I think that if you had read about a particular Buffett album that was all the critical rave–say similar to Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, you would be tempted to pick up that album and, again, if you fell in love with it, you would have been tempted to buy more. However, while I could be wrong, I don’t think any single Buffett album ever received that type of huge critical acclaim. Finally, I think you very much have something in you that likes to be the one who discovers an artist–not in the global sense, but at least within your family and social circles. With someone like Buffett, you likely “discovered” him through your family–the music, indeed, the hits came to you through osmosis. And so you are content to enjoy the familiar songs you know and love from childhood on, but have little need to explore beyond those boundaries.

    And so, I suggest that some or all of the factors above stand as exceptions to your otherwise general (obsessive) need to be a completist. When these exceptions apply, you can stand to not dwell on what you are missing. Otherwise, you become the guy who has to own EVERYTHING someone (like Brad Paisley as but one example) has recorded.

  3. Clay says:

    I think you nailed it with your second item… there is no quintessential Jimmy Buffett album (that I know of). In fact, THIS album is probably considered the quintessential Jimmy Buffett album by people who aren’t Parrotheads.

    Contrast that to a Bob Dylan (who I first discovered through my parents’ greatest hits collection, which flies in the face of your third theory)… everybody knows Dylan’s best album is Blood On the Tracks or Blonde On Blonde or Highway 61 Revisited, or… and so on. You don’t hear people saying “All you need to own is the Greatest Hits.”

  4. Dana says:

    Yeah, I was probably stretching with that third theory, which is why I said my theory was really more two-fold…

  5. Dana says:

    But now I’m ready to posit a substitute third theory….you tend to be more of a completist when you feel the artist makes either deeper or meaningful music. So with Dylan, you could tell from even the greatest hits, coupled with what you read and just knew of him as a historic music figure, that exploring his entire collection would uncover deeper, richer treasures. On the other hand, Buffett is fun music, but nothing particularly deep. You would have no reason to believe that buying other albums would lead you to discover wholly unique, meaningful, life changing music. Sure, you might find some other tunes you enjoy, but perhaps nothing more than that. And so, you are able to keep those completist tendencies in check,:)

  6. Clay says:

    That could be, although it wouldn’t explain why I have all of Rihanna’s albums. Or even Brad Paisley, though I surely consider his music deeper than you do.

    Another spin on that theory is that I don’t suspect the rest of his albums will offer up many different styles of music than appear on the Greatest. Just like Bob Marley, whose Legend album contains a bunch of classics, but don’t we all agree that every other reggae song pretty much sounds like those?

  7. Dana says:

    Well, I could argue that pretty much every Paisley song sounds alike and much like every other country song I have heard. You would argue, on the other hand, that his music is, presumably, country at its best. So, to that end, wouldn’t Marley’s be reggae at its best? Or is it that you don’t really care for reggae so much (like I don’t care for country), and so you have little desire to own more, even if it is cream of the crop?

    I have no good explanation as to why you own every Rihanna album, other than the fact that there aren’t that many so it wasn’t too daunting or financially draining to be a completist where she was concerned.

  8. Clay says:

    I definitely don’t like reggae, though I can appreciate it in small doses, or as an influence in other music I like. So that would explain my passing on more Bob Marley.

    Buffett, on the other hand, could probably be safely categorized as country, with a bit of “island” thrown in. So he should be subject to the same rules as Paisley.

    However, I would argue that Paisley’s music doesn’t all sound alike, but maybe that’s just what fans say (just as Indigo Girls fans can tell the difference between all of their songs, while I can’t).

  9. Dana says:

    Buffett may have a few songs with some country/folk influence, but I would say he is mostly island pop.

  10. Clay says:

    Based on your extensive knowledge of his 25 albums. 😉

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