Over the course of his career, Buffett has endeared himself to them by transforming himself into a kind of musical shaman, offering everything from the banality of everyday life to the riches of a forever land of eternal sunshine, endless sand, and unlimited on-board drinks. Transportation to: Margaritaville.
As a young fan in the 1980s and 1990s, I marveled at the power of Buffett’s music to transport his listeners to this fantastical utopia where all they saw was harmless fun.
But as I matured and eventually became a philosophy professor, I began to view Buffett’s music less as an expression of an optimistic pursuit of pleasure and more as a reflection of a deeply pessimistic assessment of life’s trials and tribulations. Today, I feel his work is closer to the pessimistic conclusions of 19th-century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer than to the hedonism of leisure culture.
I think this underlying pessimism—which underlies much of Buffett’s music—is key to its enduring power and appeal.
Escape to somewhere holy
Part troubadour, part travel agent, Buffett has long been in the business of selling escapes.
Escapism is not only the driving force and core of his 30 studio albums, but also the main plot of his three novels. It’s also the heart and soul of his multibillion-dollar business empire, which includes two restaurant chains, a range of frozen meals and a string of hotels and casinos.
As Buffett wrote in his 1979 hit song “Boat Drinks,” these myriad products, as promoted by their various slogans and marketing campaigns, promised to transport consumers away from the drab suburbs and into some imaginary land. Caribbean Island Kitchen – “Saint Somewhere”. “
Buffett readily admits that he’s committed to giving his fans a break from reality. In a 2004 appearance on “60 Minutes,” he gleefully declared, “I sell escapism.” In a 2007 interview with Sports Illustrated, he said, “I’m just doing my part. Add a little escapism to this crazy world.”
However, the question remains: Why are people always drawn to Buffett’s unique style of escapism? Or to escape reality?
Answering this question reveals the pessimistic core of Buffett’s work.
Just a little comfort
Buffett himself ventured to answer this question in the afterword to his 2004 novel A Salty Land: “…now more than ever, we enjoy escapism—and we need it.”
For Buffett, escapism is more than just fun, a fantasy that can be embraced or discarded at will.
It’s vital to our survival that, as he put it in his 1974 song “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season,” “Clean” [us] Get out” so you can get on with your life.
In other words, loving Jimmy Buffett’s music is not the same as loving life. It’s the pessimistic admission that life is hard and requires escape from time to time in order to endure it.
In Buffett’s music, one glimpses the possibility that somewhere out there, beyond life’s constant struggles and disappointments, there is a “warm place,” as he puts it: some utopia where we All the fears are there. Anxiety may be eliminated and we can heal whatever is making us sad, whether it’s the heartache of a breakup or “[blown] out of flip flops” or “on top of the pop.”
Buffett told Time magazine in 1998: “When I look out at my audience, I see people taking care of aging parents, dealing with tough jobs, teenage children, and they look like they need a little relief.”
That’s what he strives to provide them: a little relief from the pain and worries of life.
The role of good art and good music
Buffett’s first hit song, “Come Monday,” was born out of his own need to escape a particularly dark period in his life.
In 1983, he confessed to David Letterman: “I was living at Howard Johnson’s house in Marin County and was deeply depressed, and this song kept me from committing suicide.”
Fortunately, he explained to Letterman, “things happened and I was able to pay the rent and get my dog out of the shelter.” It was his ability to deal with life’s great difficulties with this comedic melancholy that made him Buffett’s music is so special.
His songs acknowledge what everyone knows: life can be extremely painful and often unbearable, but people have to find a way to keep going. It’s the downbeat subtext of Buffett’s escapism that makes it so irresistible.
In this sense, Buffett’s music embodies what the 19th-century pessimist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer believed to be the ultimate power of art.
For Schopenhauer, good art arises from an awareness of life’s difficulties and an effort to cope with them by providing temporary respite from the otherwise unrelenting nature of life’s difficulties.
For these reasons, Schopenhauer saw in art—especially in music—a form of escapism, a way of being transported into a fantasy world that everyone knew could never exist, but which Still a comforting thought.
According to Schopenhauer’s pessimistic view, the value of art comes from how it creates an imaginary space in which one can temporarily escape reality and muster the courage to move on – and perhaps even learn from this gap how to laugh at everything. Facing the gallows. Every living thing.
By this pessimistic measure, Buffett’s music is high art because it excels in helping listeners escape the onslaught of modern life and teaching them to laugh again—not out of hedonism despite its difficulties, but in spite of it. these difficulties. Buffett and all his fans secretly know that this escapist fantasy is not just an optional form of entertainment but a necessary tool for survival.
As Buffett himself said in his popular 1977 book “Changing Latitudes, Changing Attitudes,” “If we can’t laugh, we’ll all go crazy.”
Drew M. Dalton is Professor of Philosophy at Dominican University.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.