Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lost at Sea

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Island
ARTIST: Jimmy Buffett
SONGWRITERS: Jimmy Buffett / Dave Loggins
ALBUM: Coconut Telegraph

I get these questions. People ask me, "How can you write them real sensitive songs and then write that TRASH?" And I say, "Well, I can be real sensitive on occasions and be real trashy on others."
(Jimmy Buffett)

Country Music Hall of Fame member Roger Miller was plagued with a problem in his career. He became known for lighthearted, "novelty" numbers like "Dang Me" and "Chug-a-Lug" to the point where his serious material (such as his spectacular song "The Last Word in Lonesome is Me") was overlooked by the masses.

Jimmy Buffett has a similar problem. His best-known work speaks of drinking, sex, drinking, wild parties, and oh did I mention drinking. However, he has a soft side apart from those why don't we get drunk on grapefruit-Juicy Fruit in Margaritaville on a livingston Saturday night songs. Sure, those songs are more fun to sing along with at a Jimmy Buffett concert, but they also tend to diminish the fact that Buffett is a good songwriter. His ballads are where his creativity shine.

One of his best ballads is "Island," a song he co-wrote with Dave Loggins (the songwriter of Three Dog Night's "Pieces of April" who had the hit "Please Come to Boston"). This lovely song ranks with some of Buffett's best material.

Buffett sings the song as a monologue to an island. "I feel that your existence is not unlike my own," he tells the land. "They say no man is like you. Sometimes I feel that way too. It's the need for love, heart and soul accompaniment, that seems to make me different from you." Marvelous sentiment from Buffett, delivered with a simple guitar and string background.

A number of Buffett's other ballads ("He Went to Paris," "The Captain and the Kid") have become favorites. If more people listened to this gem they would be requesting that Buffett perform it in concert.


"Ace" (from Down to Earth/HIgh Cumberland Jubilee) -- a terrific early tune about a homeless man who cannot read or write but can show others how to live.
"Nautical Wheelers" (from A1A) -- a song with a line that was the title of an earlier album ("that's 'cause everyone here is just more than contented to be living and dying in 3/4 time") that is a standout of one of Buffett's best albums.
"Banana Republics" (from Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes) -- an unpleasant busman's holiday for Steve Goodman turned into a classic song, and Buffett provides a great interpretation of the tune.
"The Wino and I Know" (from Living and Dying in 3/4 Time) -- at the time, Buffett was trying to be a country singer, but this song makes references to going "back to the island, honey, back to the sea," indicating what direction Buffett's music would eventually turn.
"Manana" (from Son of a Son of a Sailor) -- how can you pass up a song with lines like "Don't try to describe a Kiss concert if you've never seen it" and "I hope Anita Bryant never ever does one of my songs?"

Life is Too Short
I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Heart of Rome
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine

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