January 7, 2021
First, my qualifications for writing this chapter of my world-renowned blog: I began playing in rock ‘n’ roll bands – lead singer, mostly, with occasional stints on rhythm guitar and blues harmonica – at seventeen and continued playing for seven years. In 1992, I recorded, with a backing band comprised of crack musicians (who auditioned me before they agreed to play on the album), a full-length album of songs I had written. Not parenting ballads, mind you…rhythm ‘n’ blues-based rock ‘n’ roll. The album received very good reviews. One reviewer said that one of the songs was the best he’d ever heard in its category (so-called “garage” rock). Truth be known, given the choice between I can be lead singer in a band or I can be a parenting expert…lead singer, hands down.
Okay, having established my bona fides in rock music, the blog that will make me lots of enemies. I’ll come straight to the point: I cannot abide Jimmy Buffett. See? Some of you are already screaming vile things at me. Let’s face it, the Margaritameister is not a good singer, he’s not a good songwriter (save maybe two that are passable), he’s not a good guitarist, his band is not that good (a friend of mine sang backup for him for a while and told me he picked her not for her talent but because she didn’t charge the going rate). He’s a crashing bore, to be honest.
But! He’s a good marketer, for sure, and I do believe in capitalism and the free market, so I honor him for making lots of moolah off of very mediocre talent.
You can generally judge a musician by his ability to take someone else’s song and make it better, like Hendrix did with “All Along the Watchtower” and the Stones did with “Time Is On My Side.” Just to mention two. So, on that basis, have you ever heard Buffett’s version of Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl”? No? Don’t bother. It ranks with the worst covers ever done. His take reveals his utter lack of vocal chops. Someone needs to tell him, “Jimmy, my man, it’s not just about staying on key, which you manage to do, but what distinguishes a really great singer – Elvis, Sinatra, Dylan, Grace Slick, McCartney even – is their phrasing – their ability to create a new rhythm with their voice, and Jimmy, my man, you just ain’t got it. You got no soul, dude.”
Dylan? Yes, Dylan. He is one of the greatest singers of all time. People who say he can’t sing have never really listened to him. They don’t like his tone so they extrapolate from their bad ear that he can’t sing. Believe me, other lead singers are in awe of him. Dylan invents melodies that no one has ever thought of before and his phrasing is magical.
But back to the Parrotman. Okay, okay, he’s entertaining. On second thought, not really. He stands in one spot and sings and cracks jokes. Mick Jagger is entertaining. Steven Tyler is entertaining. Comparatively, Buffett is a big yawn.
But I still sing along to “Wastin’ Away in Margaritaville” every time it comes on my car radio.
Copyright 2020, John K. Rosemond