“Margaritaville” remains one of Jimmy Buffett’s most popular songs, and his loyal followers, known as Parrotheads, know better. They often show up at his concerts dressed in silly hats and loud Hawaiian shirts, singing along to Buffett’s signature song they know and love so well.
In 1999, the country fans were in for a treat as Alan Jackson covered Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” on the album Under the Influence. It featured Buffett joining Jackson to sing along on the third and final verse.
The Carefree Caribbean Lifestyle In “Margaritaville”
Written by Jimmy Buffett himself, “Margaritaville” got lyrics reflecting a laid-back lifestyle in a tropical climate.
“Nibblin’ on sponge cake, watchin’ the sun bake. All of those tourists covered with oil. Strummin’ my six string on my front porch swing. Smell those shrimp. They’re beginnin’ to boil,” the song begins.
The song went on revealing that the man is drowning his sorrows over a failed romance, all the while onlookers wondering that a former flame could be at fault. The last line out of the three verses shows the man’s shifting attitude toward the situation. “And I know it’s my own damn fault,” the man said at the end.
Buffet actually wrote the song after tasting his first Margarita at Lung’s Cocina del Sur restaurant on Anderson Lane in Austin, Texas. Later that night, while staying at a friend’s house to save money, Buffet sat out on the deck, and he wrote most of the lyrics. He added the finishing touches on the song when he returned to Key West, Florida.
Interestingly, Buffett recorded “Margaritaville” at Criteria Studios in Miami with producer Norbert Putnam. Buffett met Putnam in Nashville, where the two did most of their work. Buffett then asked Putnam to work on an album of songs about a carefree lifestyle by the water, and Putnam told him that he needed to be near the water when recording it if he really wanted to pull it off, so Miami it was.
“One day in the studio, he comes in and starts telling me about a day he had in Key West. He was coming home from a bar, and he lost one of his flip-flops, and he stepped on a beer can top, and he couldn’t find the salt for his Margarita,” Putnam said. “He says he’s writing lyrics to it, and I say ‘That’s a terrible idea for a song.’ He comes back in a few days later with ‘Wasted Away Again In Margaritaville’ and plays it, and right then, everyone knows it’s a hit song. Hell, it wasn’t a song – it was a movie.”
And Putnam got it right! Following the song’s release off Buffet’s 1977 album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, “Margaritaville” flew up the charts throughout the summer, peaking at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the coveted No. 1 spot on the Easy Listening chart.
In 2016, “Margaritaville” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its cultural and historical significance. Indeed, the song has come to define Buffett’s music and career. “I was lucky enough to get my thumb on the pulse beat of what people perceived the tropics to be,” he said.
So, sit back, and relax while listening to Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet’s duet in the video below.
Alan Jackson, Jimmy Buffett
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