Calling Doctor Buffett
Just about everybody’s familiar with Jimmy Buffett, best known for his mega hit “Margaritaville” from the 1970s. What a lot of people don’t know is that as of May 2015, Jimmy is a doctor. Officially.
Okay, Doctor of Music, specifically, as this esteemed title was bestowed upon him by the University of Miami at the school’s 2015 graduation ceremony, where he delivered the commencement speech.
In introducing Buffett, university president Donna Shalala, said, “Your name shall be forever inscribed upon the enduring roll of our university’s honorary sons and daughters.” So now he’s got his name on a college roll as well as the labels of his own Margaritaville brand of rum, tequila and ready-to-drink Margaritas.
You can learn about his drinks here. (Note: if you’re underage and a college student, like many of the audience at Jimmy’s speech, you’ll have to prove that you’re 21 or older to visit the site. The way you do this is click “yes.”)
Buffett was born on Christmas Day 1946 in Pascagoula, Miss., but it was in Florida where his career took off. He told the crowd that he originally went to Florida because he wanted to attend the University of Miami and become a marine biologist, a “Jacques Cousteau with a southern accent.” It didn’t work out. But in 1971 he did play his music for the first time in the state for money.
He spoke about living in nearby Coconut Grove, where he “discovered my Caribbean soul that I could barely control, and Miami always found a home in my heart.” The university, he said, was his backdrop in the early days as he travelled up and down U.S. 1.
Throughout his speech he referred vaguely to parties, drinking and booze, all of which the graduating students seemed to relate to. When he mentioned using a “pay phone,” the auditorium was basically silent.
“It’s not my nature to live in the past or do speeches,” Buffett said. “I’m always looking for what lies ahead. Of course, I’ve fallen off of a few horses along the way . . .”
He went on, “I see graduation as akin to getting off a boat that is taking you on amazing voyages, so many that you just can’t keep up with the time.” He referred to what happens after graduation as that “scavenger hunt of life you’re about to embark upon.”
The heart of his speech was tying in his varied and many life experiences with what amounted to advice. Although likely none of the students were born when he rose to fame with “Margaritaville,” old stories and sound wisdom apply at any age and in any era.
It’s good when we can mesh the “old” with the “new,” and when older men of a time that’s being slowly forgotten can rouse their spirits and get up in front of sometimes-rowdy, sometimes-serious younger people and make a powerful point.
Of all musical artists, Jimmy is one who has done plenty within the business but has also lived a full and adventurous life outside of it. The graduates seemed to connect with him, because when a man speaks soundly and of truly enduring principles, it resonates to all listeners.
Ellie and I are big Jimmy Buffett fans. We’ve seen him perform, and I met him once in Alabama. He’s truly one of our most-loved and musically prolific stars, still chugging along today at the ripe old age of 69. Maybe now that he’s a doctor, he could consider running for president. Personally I think it would be refreshing to see a president wearing flip-flops and carrying a parrot around on his shoulder. It would be huuuuge.