Sydney Miller

Honestly, I should probably be writing something else.

The last two letters from the editor have been important, emotional pitches on behalf of free press and the importance of voting. They were really good.

But I’m tired. 

As the only opinion editor, it’s my job to be acutely aware of the big things that come by week-to-week. Sometimes I write about them, and sometimes I’m just reading and editing the things my writers give me. But it’s taken a toll on me. 

Don’t get me wrong — I love the opinion section. I love each and every one of my opinion writers, and I value and cherish everything they write. But I’ve had such a hard time engaging in things that used to bring me pleasure to the point where sometimes it feels like nothing even matters anymore. 

I’m working on this, of course. I’m seeing my therapist, taking medication and writing down what I’m grateful for every morning, but it’s still really hard.

This letter from the editor is my space, my time, to tell the world what I think it needs to hear. But I feel like I’ve been doing that — shouting into the void — forever.

I have opinions. I put out important stuff that, hopefully, influences people. But to be honest, I just want to feel good when I write. I want to write about what makes me happy.

So we come to the topic of today’s letter from the editor: Jimmy Buffett. You know him. Maybe you hate him. Maybe you don’t care about him. Maybe you’re my dad and you’re forever going to resent the people that claimed to have front row Husker football tickets the weekend Jimmy Buffett was in Denver that made you go up to Lincoln and miss the concert only to find out they didn’t even have the Husker tickets.

And maybe you’re like me, and you freaking love Jimmy Buffett. I have several vivid childhood memories of dancing in front of my living room window, listening to “Volcano,” “Fins” and, of course “Margaritaville” on my iPod Nano.

I always knew Jimmy Buffett was a musician who made generally interesting music, but I didn’t have my Parrothead awakening until earlier this year. I was sitting in my dorm in January, and I heard the song “Saxophones” on one of my Spotify Daily Mixes. I liked the artwork of the album it was on — “Living And Dying in 3/4 Time” — so I gave it a listen.

I don’t want to be dramatic, but I have to say how I feel. And the truth is, to me, “Living And Dying in 3/4 Time” is one of the best records in the world.

Released in 1974, it was Buffett’s third studio album and included his first breakout hit, “Come Monday.” The lilting violin, acoustic guitar and calypso clinking back up what I believe are truly some of the best written lyrics in American canon. 

Every time I hear the lines, “Remember that night in Montana / when we said there’d be no room for doubt,” they send chills down my spine. The complexity of the love song entices me: a story of a man who knows that his lover has to leave and lets her go, but he misses her without holding any resentment because he knows he’ll see her again.

Maybe I love the album so much because of my deep appreciation for classic country music, which Buffett obviously shares. In fact, country legend Jerry Jeff Walker is partially responsible for Buffett’s transformation from classic folk singer to “gulf-western” Americana legend — many see their trip to Key West in 1971 as the beginning of Jimmy Buffett’s new era of music.

You can hear the country and folk in Buffett’s songs if you listen to anything beyond “Margaritaville.” Besides “Come Monday,” Buffett flexes his songwriting skills in hits like “Son of a Son of a Sailor,” “He Went to Paris” and “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” 

If I tried to put all of my favorite lines from his songs in this article, it would be more like a book. And it’s more than the lyrics; it’s the way he delivers them, the way that every single word slips into the splendid melodies to create the ultimate listening experience. 

It’s the way he can make painfully sad songs, bittersweet songs, jaunty rockabilly songs and songs that are just straight up fun. “Cheeseburger in Paradise” is joy in a song to me. Honestly, it is the American creation on which we feed, and he was right to say so.

Jimmy Buffett can make a bop about the end of the world. Jimmy Buffett can make an angelic banger about a hitchhiker with mommy issues. Jimmy Buffett can write lyrics that melt on your tongue if you sing along and play opening guitar riffs that make your heart leap every time you hear them. 

Now, I’ll be completely transparent here: I haven’t heard most of his songs released after 2000 besides “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Knee Deep.” I’m guessing they’re not as good as his old stuff because, yeah, he sold out. 

The big, bad, capitalist shark bit Jimmy Buffett, and it bit him hard. But like my lovely colleague Emma Krab has pointed out, it’s OK to separate art from the artist. It’s OK to get joy from something even if you may not endorse everything the creator does.

I definitely don’t hold 2020 Jimmy Buffett in the same regard as I do 1974 Jimmy Buffett. But that doesn’t change the fact that he made some of the best music I’ve ever heard. 

The joy that “Living And Dying in 3/4 Time” has brought me is so, so important, and writing about my love for Jimmy Buffett — while, of course, listening to Jimmy Buffett — has brought me the most peaceful hour of my life since 2015. 

Do what makes you happy, even if it seems silly. You deserve it.

Sydney Miller is the opinion editor. Reach them at sydneymiller@dailynebraskan.com.