Jimmy Buffett is more than just a song and dance man. He’s a brand, with a global empire that includes beer, real estate, restaurants, books, radio, clothes, and anything else you care to mention. But leaving aside the fact he’s turned his tunes into the biggest lifestyle branding device the world of music has ever witnessed, the tunes themselves are still glorious in a country music yet reggae type of music manner. If you’re in the mood for something uplifting and vacation-ready, check out our pick of the 10 best Jimmy Buffett songs of all time.
10. Remittance Man
Kicking off our list of the 10 best Jimmy Buffett songs of all time is Remittance Man. Even the most devout parrothead would have to admit that Buffett’s output since the 1970s has been a little inconsistent. There have been some right doozies along the way, but when he drops something like 1995’s Barometer Soup, we all remember why we loved him in the first place. Light-hearted, amiable, and seasoned with just enough spice to keep things interesting, it’s a corker. Remittance Man, a song inspired by Mark Twain’s account of meeting two remittance men during his voyage in “Following the Equator,” is one of its highlights.
9. Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes
According to Return of Rock, Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes is where Buffett’s outdoorsy blend of county-rock and Caribbean music reached its pinnacle. It’s hard to disagree with their conclusion. Taken from the 1977 album of the same name, the sun-drenched island imagery and insanely catchy instrumentation are perfectly counterbalanced with a drop more gravitas than his previous single, the equally sublime Margaritaville, boasted. Since debuting at No. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100, it’s become a firm fan favorite, as well as one of “The Big 8” that Buffett almost always plays at his concerts.
8. He Went To Paris
Bob Dylan, a long-time Buffett fan, has cited He Went to Paris as one of his favorite songs. It’s also been covered by Waylon Jennings, a man who knows a thing or two about good tunes himself. Inspired by Eddie Balchowsky, a one-armed Spanish Civil war veteran Buffett met while he was performing in Chicago, it was released as the fourth and final single from the 1973 album A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean. It didn’t chart, but it’s since become one of his most beloved songs.
7. Cheeseburger In Paradise
Even vegans can’t resist a bit of Cheeseburger in Paradise. Written about a man who’s trying to “amend his carnivorous habits” by replacing high-calorie, high-cholesterol goodies with sunflower seeds and lettuce, it was inspired after Buffett was forced to rely on canned food and peanut butter after a boating mishap in the Caribbean. He eventually made it to dry land where he promptly treated himself to a cheeseburger in paradise. Since hitting No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100, it’s become one of his signature songs, and a staple at live shows.
6. A Pirate Looks At Forty
As Billboard writes, Buffett was only 28 when he wrote A Pirate Looks at Forty, a bittersweet, pathos laced confession of a washed-up drug smuggler, but the world-weary resignation and simmering desire he conveys go way beyond his years. Released on his 1974 album A1A, it’s become a regular part of his concert as part of “The Big 8.”
5. Come Monday
A gentle, sweet little ditty written by Buffett for his wife while he was on tour, Come Monday was first released in 1974 on the album Living and Dying in 3/4 Time. It was his first Top 40 single, peaking at No.30 on the Billboard Hot 100 and scoring him a No. 3 hit on the Easy Listening chart. A part of “The Big 8,” it’s been a regular part of his live concerts since the 70s.
4. Brahma Fear
On first listen, there’s nothing about Brahma Fear that jumps off the page and grabs you. A deep cut from the 1974 album Living and Dying in 3/4 Time, it’s rarely played at concerts and unless you’re a fully signed up parrothead, there’s a good chance you’ll have missed it. It’s still a beautiful song, though, and one that perfectly captures the acoustic, island sound that Buffett perfected in the 70s and is still doing better than anyone else in the business all these years later.
Obviously, no list of the best Jimmy Buffett songs would be complete without mentioning Margaritaville. Since peaking at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977 (his highest charting position of all time), it’s come to define Buffett’s music, career, and a particular state of mind. It’s also one of the cleverest branding devices popular music has ever created, but that’s by the by. If you’re a parrothead, it will already be stamped on your soul. If you’re not, pop it on your playlist and prepare to be converted.
A fun little rocker about “land sharks” (i.e. the predatory men who spend most of their time trying to pick up the woman at the center of the song), Fins has been essential Buffett listening (and a constant presence at his concerts) ever since it peaked at No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979.
1. Son Of Son Of A Sailor
Strangely enough, the opening and titular track of the 1978 album Son Of Son Of A Sailor didn’t become a feature of Buffett’s concerts until the 2005 Salty Piece of Land tour. It’s always been a firm fan favorite though, and for very good reason. Designed to be listened to at sunset with a margarita in hand, it’s a sunny piece of pop gold that represents everything great and good about Jimmy Buffett, and the world at large. If you’ve still got a care in the world left after listening to this, you’ll be the only one.