Dozen of Books about Heroes and Crooks

David Russell Beach
2 min readSep 2, 2023

September 2, 2023

Jimmy Buffett has transcended the latitudes. His breakthrough album hit when I was a sophomore in high school. “Margaritaville” made it to number two on the Billboard charts. The title track of that album stands out for me as a writer. At 16, that first line of “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” made me perk up and take notice of the twists and turns of language, but also the deep meanings in so few words: “I took off for a weekend last month / just to try and recall the whole year.” Time. Reflection. Sobriety? It probably also appealed to my wanderlust — I wanted changes in latitudes because I needed changes in attitude. I was being strangled by the Christocentric, heteronormative, misogynistic Lutheran school I attended. The third line in the second stanza also said something to me: “If it suddenly ended tomorrow / I could somehow adjust to the fall.” I heard that and decided to make every day count. It worked. I’ve had quite the life with the rare regret.

Another song taught me something about humans. Again, in the title track of his second big album, Son of a Son of a Sailor,” is this line: “Read dozens of books about heroes and crooks, / And I’ve learned much from both of their styles.” We favor the binary of either/or, but I felt that was too limiting, and I’m a more both/and person. I think Jimmy’s line was the first time that had been put in a clear perspective for me.

I saw him once in concert, 1985 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, after a Giants game. After the ninth inning, marijuana smoke drifted up the stands. We rocked it out into the dark when we could see lights on the hillsides across the Bay in Oakland.

All of Jimmy’s songs tell stories much like country songs do. I wore out the 1979 album Volcano. “Fins to the left, fins to the right, and you’re the only bait in town.” “Ground she’s movin’ under me / Tidal waves out on the sea / Sulphur some up in the sky / Pretty soon we all learn to fly” with a calypso beat. And there’s the touching song “Chanson Pour Les Petits Enfants” which starts as a children’s story: “Now young Mister Moon flew away in the night / with his best friend Magnus right by his side. / They soared though the Milky Way, counting the stars, / Once around Venus, twice around Mars.” And all the others. Even “Why Don’t We Get Drunk.” I don’t remember that being played on the radio until long after it was released in 1973, but it was circulated stealthily as the battle cry for many a young man!

I learned Jimmy had lymphoma a few months ago when he cancelled his Second Wind Tour. Today, all Parrotheads mourn. We take solace in his own words: “If it suddenly ended tomorrow, I could somehow adjust to the fall.” RIP Buddy.

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David Russell Beach

David Beach is playwright/writer, director, dramaturg, and educator. He holds a PhD in education and an MFA in playwriting, and is a professor at Radford U.