Goodbye to the Friend I Never Knew

Jimmy Buffet died on Friday, September 1.

It made me sad. I never met him; I don’t know anyone who knows him. He was a summertime fixture in my life. A concert at Wrigley Field in Chicago or Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. One lucky chance to see him in Paris when I was there for work. I have never seen a performer who seemed to enjoy his job more than Jimmy.

His satellite radio station, Radio Margaritaville, has been my most listened to station since I bought satellite radio, and I may have had a drink or 10 at a Margaritaville Resort. And I will never forget the Parrot Heads I met at the nameless Tiki Bar in Paris.

I remember driving with my daughter in Maui, heading to the Safeway in Lahaina to stock up on groceries for the vacation. She was maybe 9 or 10. Jimmy Buffet’s cover of “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Still, and Nash came on the radio, and she said, “daddy, I don’t think you can ever listen to Jimmy Buffet and be sad.”

Well, my pumpkin, my nickname for my daughter, you were right. It is nearly impossible to listen to his music and not smile.

When I heard the news of Jimmy’s death, I remembered dancing with my little girl on the beach as a cover band played Margaritaville for the umpteenth time, just my daughter and me, laughing, smiling, not a care in the world.

And that is when it hit me. We may be sad when someone we “love” dies, even though we don’t know them, and he or she never knew us…we are sad for the memories that will never happen.

I remember my father being extremely upset when Elvis Presley died in 1977. I didn’t understand why he was so upset. Give me some credit, I was only eight years old. He told me, I am sad because I was going to take you to see him on his next tour, and now you will never understand what he was like.

That was lost on me until Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones died before their most recent tour. I was going to take my kids to a show in Minneapolis to experience the spectacle that is a Rolling Stones concert. We still went, and Steve Jordan did an amazing job. But it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t until later that I learned that Charlie was too sick for the tour and had hand-picked Steve to be his replacement.

I felt the same way when I took my son to see Dead & Company a few years ago. We had a blast, and he finally understood why his conservative daddy loves the music of the Grateful Dead. But it left a hole in my heart. Jerry was gone, and he’d never know the pure joy of one of his guitar riffs, or when he smiled at Bobby after a particularly great guitar exchange. It was like when Roger Moore replaced Sean Connery as James Bond. He was good, but it wasn’t the same.

So, this weekend, we will say goodbye to another friend we never knew. I’ll grill some cheeseburgers, blend some margaritas, and play his music at 11!

Fins up, Jimmy. You lived your life like a song. Enjoy eternity on the Big Island.

Let’s hope they have Boat Drinks in Heaven.

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About Jim Nelles

Jim Nelles is a supply chain consultant based in Chicago, Illinois and a regular contributor to the National Pulse. He has served as a chief procurement officer, chief supply chain officer, and a chief operations officer for multiple companies.

Photo: WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 03: Jimmy Buffett plays a song as he performs at a Get Out the Vote rally for U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Florida Democratic governor candidate Andrew Gillum at the Meyer Amphitheatre on November 03, 2018 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Mr. Buffett was encouraging people to vote for Sen. Nelson and Mayor Gillum who are in tight races against their Republican opponents. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)