On Jimmy Buffett, What Music Can Do For the Soul and Growing Older

I remember my first real panic attack like it was yesterday. I don’t remember the cause, but I remember the circumstances and I remember what brought me back. At the time, I was in a relationship with someone that had this seemingly unreal to be present in any situation, and that became a common factor in said relationship. We’d sit and we’d talk but we’d also take pauses to share recent music interests and really hone in on the interests of the other. Anyway, this particular night–I’m not sure where we were coming from or where we were in this particular moment–I whipped out a CD that I’d found in my parents’ seemingly endless array in our basement storage: Songs You Know by Heart by Jimmy Buffett. It of course the classics such as Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise, but also the lesser-known hits to the casual listeners such as Boat Drinks and Pencil Thin Mustache (a personal favorite). In fact, I was in such a Buffett kick at the time that in a month’s time that CD had been so worn down nearly every song would skip at some point. I’m pretty sure that night we listened through it twice in that moment in time alone.

Later that evening, we were hanging out–this time with Led Zeppelin IV on–and I felt myself slipping. I got the uncontrollable shakes, I felt I couldn’t breathe for a moment in time. To try to help calm me down, she sang the entirety of Cheeseburger in Paradise word-for-word and bar-for-bar. Hell, Buffett says it himself: ‘if we couldn’t laugh, we’d all go insane.” Throughout the day today, whether it be YouTube, random articles, social media etc. I’ve seen so many people saying the same things. His music had the ability to bring people somewhere bright and sunny whether the mind is cloudy or its January and that dang sun has refused to come out for a week straight. He had a way of uplifting simply by reminding of what’s out there. And for that, he will be missed.

Thinking back on this particular story and those I’ve heard and read today has brought to mind what music does for me in my every day life–in situations big and small. Although I have gained a lot more control of the above stated anxiety, it still likes to pop up. In social situations, I find that I ground myself by searching for what’s being played on that loud speaker. In my room during alone time, it’s physical records.

Those who know me, know how proud I am to be a Bulldog. If you don’t, you can read the post about that here. But in reminiscing on the first semester I spent here, I would be lying to state that I had a seamless transition. There was a lot of change and I was finding out about myself on an individual level more than I ever had before. How I manage my time, the best study habits for me and how important getting consistent sleep is to me (of course, I write this as I’m in the middle of an overnight shift at WHO Radio) are just a few I can think of off the top of my head. The one consistency? That arm and needle that consistently brought me feelings of peace and the strength to keep going. The sweet serenades of one James Taylor as he reminded me that even if it doesn’t feel like it, I’ve got a friend. The rich yet soft voice of Gordon Lightfoot guiding me through presently listening to the strings of his guitar whilst telling the story of the Minstrel of the Dawn, who’s trying to get into things more happy than blue. Those two albums were played nearly every night on the first floor of Morehouse Hall that semester.

And yet, three years later, as I gear up for my last school year in Des Moines, I find myself carrying on that tradition. There’s a record spinning nearly every day from that corner room in the house we call Metropolis, if only because watching those LPs spin reminds me of the simple yet beautiful things in life. I know I’ve got that friend. I enjoy listening to those strings jangle and dangle. I let Jimmy take me away to a place where they communicate via Coconut Telegrams. While we live in a world of constant change and motion, these moments of serenity and beauty are welcome and remain the same.

One response to “On Jimmy Buffett, What Music Can Do For the Soul and Growing Older”

  1. JD, I am a huge Gordon Lightfoot fan! Didn’t know your generation knew about him. This was very well written. Best wishes for future success.

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