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Raffi for Grown-ups

Jimmy Buffett

Maybe Jimmy Buffett is just a guy living his best life. Maybe I’m just jealous. But there’s always been something about his leering, capitalist grin that makes me queasy.

I suppose Buffett has reason to be self-satisfied. He’s built a successful career spanning music, publishing, movies, the restaurant industry and even real estate.

He’s also earned himself a legion of fans known as "Parrotheads": an army of Hawaiian-shirted ugly Americans who vacation in white-washed Sandals Resorts. The kind of people who, while in Paradise, order a cheeseburger.

At one time, Buffett seemed to stand for the romance of the open ocean — the freedom of a permanently vacationing fisher-hippie living by his own rules. But like a lot of the ’60s generation, Buffett gave all that up for a series of big business deals, building his Margaritaville lifestyle into a brand name. 

But is the music any good? Buffett has called his sound, cringingly, “drunken Caribbean rock ’n’ roll,” and some tag it with the equally cringe-worthy “Gulf ’n’ Western.” It’s certainly inspired a lot of pop country dude-bros like Kenny Chesney.

But I’d call it Raffi for grown-ups: sing-songy and limply acoustic, mildly twangy storytelling songs like “Son of a Son of Sailor” and “Margaritaville” — cheap, watery and forgettable.

It’s music for the one percent to listen to while getting tanked on G&Ts. They survey their beachfront property, drifting off to sleep in a hammock secure in the thought their annuities are well managed.

It’s said what’s partially behind Gen X’s trademark cynicism is that we watched our moms and dads, like Buffett, give up their ’60s-era idealism for ’80s-era greed. In this context, Jimmy Buffett is a musical Gordon Gekko, a personification of the “me generation” doubling down on the “me.”

Jimmy Buffett and The Coral Reef Band play 8 pm Sunday, Oct. 15, at Matthew Knight Arena; $36 to $136. — Will Kennedy