The Song Sounds Tired, but Buffett Buffs Love It

By Butters, Patrick | Insight on the News, July 19, 1999 | Go to article overview

The Song Sounds Tired, but Buffett Buffs Love It


Butters, Patrick, Insight on the News


Indeed, Jimmy Buffett has mellowed. The singer's new CD, Beach House on the Moon, suggests a man more interested in golfing and parenting than drinking and wenching.

Jimmy Buffett's new album, Beach House on the Moon, offers few surprises, although his fans can't seem to get enough of his ever-mellowing sound. His lyrics still have his trademark wit and rhyme, minus the Nashville-inspired syrup of the artist's Southern roots. Yet the Buffett train needs a jump-start. A typical concert is like a mini-Mardi Gras: fun, hedonistic gatherings catering to loyal fans -- "Parrotheads" -- who have been weaned on ancient beach-bar ditties such as "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and "Margaritaville."

Chalk up his durability to a combination of undeniably catchy music and brilliant marketing. When his chart appeal began to wane (1979's "Fins" was the last hit), the 52-year-old musician found other ways to cash in: corporate sponsorship such as Corona beer, two novels and two children's books. A memoir, A Pirate Looks at 50, spent five weeks on the New York Times best-seller list last summer. He even has gastronomes among his million-strong following. (One must eat while reading and listening to music, right?) Fans flock to his Margaritaville restaurants in Key West, Fla., and New Orleans. His Florida gift shop -- books, T-shirts, CDs, memorabilia -- is almost as big as the restaurant.

Buffett is a kind of one-man bandit. The New York Times reports that he grosses $25 million a year for his 30 or so concerts. Forbes magazine estimated his 1995 income at $12 million. "He calls me from time to time for advice," says billionaire Warren Buffett, his cousin, "but I should be calling him." The singer's people lay it on pretty thick, too. On the CD liner notes they submerge him in hyperbole: He's a "musical legend, philanthropist, entrepreneur, philosopher, phenomenon."

But Buffett needs to pay as much attention to the music as he does to the bottom line. Beach House on the Moon is a pleasant if somewhat lazy reminder of his past successes. For the right and the wrong reasons, it sounds as if he recorded the record in his sleep. His storytelling has become so predictable and his voice so familiar that he's now too much like his grandfather the sea captain. Perhaps we're willing to excuse our relatives when their talents follow a familiar groove.

Take, for example, "I Will Play for Gumbo," one of the cuts on the new CD. …

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