We at Benign Humor are incredibly excited to share with you a rare interview with the evasive Jimmy Buffett. I know, right? On a quiet, private beach we sit, facing the ocean, sharing a few moments with the patron saint of cheeseburger beach rock. (Hey, Behind the Music… how does my ass taste?)
Benign Humor: Jimmy, we are so incredibly thankful you decided to participate in this interview.
Jimmy Buffett: My pleasure. I was unfamiliar with your blog but read a few passages and loved its playfully witty style and what fine prose you craft.
BH: Wow, that’s so flattering. Anything stand out?
JB: Hang on, there’s a fly in my daiquiri. Now what was I saying?
BH: You were about to compliment my coquettish prose and ascending career as a writer, perhaps a novelist or screenwriter. I haven’t decided yet, really.
JB: Oh yes, of course. So how did you get your start?
BH: Well, I have always enjoyed writing. When I was in first grade, I wrote an opinion piece defending bats because they eat mosquitos and I believed their defamed character was undeserved, bordering on libelous. I also wrote a poem in third grade that all my classmates read aloud on local TV, channel 33.
JB: That’s impressive. What was the poem about?
BH: Protecting the environment. It was very literal, but I used it as a ploy to get President Bush, the first one, obviously, to go to an Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
JB: A bit preachy for a nine year-old, don’t you think?
BH: Mr. Buffett, I am afraid we have gone horribly off-track here.
JB: You’re right. The mind’s going a bit. (Editor’s note: He whistles the same sound as the coyote falling off a cliff in a Looney Tunes short).
BH: Do you blame the marijuana use?
JB: It’s funny you ask. No. I’ve been dead sober for my entire career.
BH: No shit! Me too!
JB: Yeah, I’ve always found drugs and alcohol somewhat pedestrian. It’s like, I don’t need an external agent to open my mind. I’m here, conscious, alert, present. Why would I alter that?
BH: So how do you explain all the songs about bleary-eyed, hazy, absent-minded moments?
JB: Do you think I’m lying to you?
BH: Well, you just drained a fly from your margarita.
JB: You’re sharp, kid, but I’m one step ahead of you. I’m a sucker for virgin drinks. They’re delicious, refreshing, and keep me infused with vitamin C, which is essential for longevity and good health. Besides, I’ve found keeping a full drink is the only way to prevent rabid fans from constantly buying me beverages that I have to pawn off on young women in a way that makes me a feel a bit rapey.
BH: It can’t be. You had us all fooled!
JB: Believe it.
BH: So, I’m not sure how to phrase this delicately.
JB: Delicately? Ha! Don’t bother. To quote the great John Stuart Mill, “The very corner-stone of an education intended to form great minds, must be the recognition of the principle, that the object is to call forth the greatest possible quantity of intellectual power, and to inspire the intensest love of truth…” So go on, hit me! I can handle the truth!
BH: Ok, here goes. The beachy steel drums, the dummy lyrics, the “wasting away again…” It’s a bit shit, don’t you think? Why did you do it, Jimmy?
JB: I’m a pragmatist who wanted to make a career out of writing and performing music, so I did. And what am I working with here? My audience is a sea of pear-shaped soccer moms and co-dependent dads who can’t fold socks. So there you go. “Margaritaville.”
BH: It’s ironic that you hold such high regard for truth while your whole career is effectively a deception. How do you reconcile?
JB: Let me answer your question with a question. How goes your puritan, highbrow writing career?
BH: In a word, misunderstood. In another, underappreciated. In a sound, it’s like a baritone fart.
JB: As I suspected.
BH: Do you worry about people calling you phony?
BH: What about phony baloney?
BH: So what you’re telling me is that your entire musical career is just you mocking the masses. It’s you, farting in the room and then walking out.
JB: You really love fart humor, don’t you?
BH: Second only to boner jokes.
JB: Charming. Listen, I wouldn’t call myself a visionary, but I wouldn’t not call myself a visionary.
BH: How did this whole thing unfold then? How did you start this magical trip?
JB: When I started my career, I did quite a few sonic experiments. I used mallets on meat as percussion, which I thought was really avant garde. It was symbolic of my thoughts on the public education system’s impact on children’s creative processes. I thought it was not only genius, but also made truly first-rate beef carpaccio.
The album didn’t get the critical acclaim I was hoping for, but you know what? I used it as inspiration for one of my biggest commercial successes – “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”
BH: I always thought that song was so cheap and stupid. It actually offends me.
JB: Not if you have full information. Knowing what you know now, think about the meat of the song, pardon the pun. The true meaning, about my personal triumph over the idle mind of Americans is hidden in the even lines of the second verse [numeric delineation and italics provided by BH]:
1 Heard about the old time sailor men
2 They eat the same thing again and again
3 Warm beer and bread they said could raise the dead
4 Well it reminds me of the menu at a Holiday Inn
1 Times have changed for sailors these days
2 When I’m in port I get what I need
3 Not just Havanas or bananas or daiquiris but
4 That American creation on which I feed
Now do you see it?
BH: Jimmyeezy, you did it again! You a genius, n*gg@!
JB: True creative spirit cannot be contained, only channeled. If you don’t know that already, you don’t have the gift, darling.
So go write greeting cards. Pepper them with all kinds of weird shit that only matters to you. At least it’ll put food on the goddamn table. That’s something I tell all of my pupils. The smart ones listen.
BH: Enlightening! So, dish. Who are some of your most famous pupils?
JB: You won’t believe me when I tell you, but Lady Gaga.
JB: Oh yes. That meat outfit was no coincidence. She called me the day of the VMAs and said, ‘Jimmy, you’re going to want to tune in tonight. You are my inspiration.” And then she hung up the phone. Of course I watched as she paraded in her wonderfully clever tribute to “Cheeseburger.”
When I called her the next day to tell her how tickled I’d been, she said, “Jimmy, I’m your biggest fan. I’ll follow you until you love me.”
BH: I’m amazed. I never would have suspected.
JB: Believe it. I’m everywhere.
BH: One final question before we conclude. What do you think your fans would do if they found out?
JB: Nothing. These are people not looking for meaning. I’ve made a career on songs about salt-shakers, pickles, and island escapism. These people aren’t looking for something deeper. But don’t be a pompous asshole. They aren’t idiots, you know. They just have enough complicated things to deal with that they want to be rocked to sleep by something simple. Is that so bad?
BH: I guess not. But your music is really pitiful. Just wanted to tell you that.
JB: Sure, but my net is worth $400 million. So, suck on that.
BH: Well, again, Jimmy, thank you so much for your time. This has been a real eye-opener. I have learned so much about you and really have a different opinion.
JB: I don’t care if you do. No one reads your blog anyway, so my secret is safe, right?
BH: Never safer than hiding in plain sight.