The Mayor of Margaritaville gets mythic treatment in an adoring chronicle that looks back at his decadeslong career.
For many, Jimmy Buffett (b. 1946) endures simply as an icon of midlife escapism, forever grinning behind aviator-style sunglasses, beachwear, and his guitar. Former Oregonian sports and culture reporter White (Springsteen: Album by Album, 2014) further cultivates that legend, locating the beginning of Buffett’s unlikely rise to the predilections of a ship-hopping father who once yearned for a life of seafaring adventure. With that tone set, the author explores Buffett’s spawning grounds in and around Mississippi and Alabama with equal awe and wonder. When Buffett was born, notes the author, the town of Mobile was known as the “Mother of Mystics.” Making it as a musician in places like Nashville, New Orleans, and Key West was a mystical feat in and of itself. However affable, Buffett was something of a curious oddity in a town enamored with the sort of darkness embodied in the likes of Kris Kristofferson. But as Buffett’s pals explain, he always had the right mojo. As musician and talent scout Don Light remembers, “ ‘the people liked him.’ Not just the songs, they liked the singer….‘ If it was him and guitar, he could talk all evening.’ ” Fans also liked the freedom that the singer represented. Consequently, he was able to turn his laid-back lyrics and lifestyle into a powerful corporate brand responsible for a slew of chain restaurants, resorts, and assorted merchandise. In White’s account, how Buffett actually managed to become a multimillion-dollar mogul is far less important than the legend and lore behind the man. The author’s subject, however, is conspicuously absent from the career-spanning chronicle. Many of the direct quotes attributed to the artist are actually taken from various concert stages over the years, and they don't illuminate much outside of demonstrating Buffett to be a likable guy.
A feel-good biography for Parrotheads; others may want to pass.