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Music News

Who should induct Jimmy Buffett when he is honored posthumously by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at the induction ceremony this October? Buffett, of course, died last year at age 76.

On Sunday, April 21, nearly everyone was surprised to see that Jimmy Buffett is being honored by the Rock Hall. We’re not saying that he doesn’t deserve it. However, somehow, he’s never been on the ballot.

Buffett — alongside punk rock legends the MC5, legendary singer Dionne Warwick and songwriter Norman Whitfield — is being honored in the Musical Excellence category. That category tends to be for artists who have been on the ballot and have not been voted in, but the nominating committee wants to honor them.

Previous honorees include Judas Priest, LL Cool J, and Nile Rodgers of Chic. But while the MC5 and Dionne Warwick have been on the ballot in the past, Buffett has never even been nominated. Hence, the surprised reaction from many.

In some ways, it’s easy to see how he’s been overlooked. Buffett has kind of existed in his own universe, but he’s beloved by the more mellow side of classic rock. Over the past few decades, he’s become a massive influence on country music as well.

On the other hand, Buffett was certainly part of the Rolling Stone scene in the ’70s, along with Jackson Browne, the Eagles and Bonnie Raitt, all of whom have been Hall of Famers for years. Buffett was even featured on the cover. Rolling Stone‘s current and former staff used to guide the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for the institution’s first few decades; it’s surprising that his name has never made the ballot.

Jimmy Buffett 2024 Rock Hall inductee graphic

Courtesy of the Rock Hall

Jimmy Buffett: More Than a Singer-Songwriter

Jimmy Buffett has one of the strongest “brands” in rock music, but that’s a sort of taboo thing to say in rock and roll (unless you’re KISS). His empire includes the theme restaurant Margaritaville Cafe, Margaritaville Foods, Landshark Lager, Margaritaville Tequila & Spirits, Margaritaville Footwear and more. Of course, we’re not talking about the branding hall of fame.

But Buffett got his unique standing in American culture because of his incredible catalog. Some of his songs are just fun, timeless party jams, like “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Fins.” “Margaritaville,” of course, fits in that category, too. But that song is a bit deeper if you listen to the lyrics. He wrote some truly lovely ballads: “Come Monday,” “Son of a Son of a Sailor,” and “A Pirate Looks at Forty.” His final album, 2023’s Equal Strain On All Parts, had one of his best songs, and a lovely sendoff: “Bubbles Up.”

The Rock Hall seems to like it when you can make a case for an artist’s influence on current pop culture. Not sure how to make the case for Carole King? No problem: Taylor Swift will show up and make a speech. Mission accomplished. Does the Steve Miller Band translate to younger audiences? You don’t have to explain it: leave that to the Black Keys. (Although the Rock Hall may have miscalculated on the latter example; it didn’t turn out well.) In the case of Jimmy Buffett, though, there are tons of great choices.

The 2024 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction will be live on Saturday, October 19 at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio. It will stream live on Disney+ with an edited special airing on ABC at a later date, and the special will be available on Hulu the next day.

So: Who Should Induct Jimmy Buffett at the 2024 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony?

  • The Eagles

    The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame usually chooses their presenters by determining who (a) has the most cultural impact and (b) has a connection to the honoree. The Eagles have both: they’re one of the most popular rock bands of all time, obviously. Buffett, in fact, presented the Eagles at their induction back in 1998. He noted that he started as a fan, and went on to be their opening act. Eagles bass player Timothy B. Schmit was actually a member of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band after the Eagles broke up; the Eagles covered “Fins” and “Come Monday” at Madison Square Garden days after Buffett passed. They’d be a great choice to honor their fallen friend.

  • Zac Brown

    Buffett has always had a big country influence in his music, and, in fact, tried to start his career as a country singer. Nashville wasn’t interested in him in the early ’70s, but country music caught up with him a few decades later. Zac Brown has certainly brought Buffett’s beach culture into his own music, and the two became friends and collaborators. They did a CMT Crossroads together, and have collaborated on new songs, including “Knee Deep” and a remix of “Same Boat.” More recently, Zac wrote a tribute to Buffett, “Pirates and Parrots,” which he recently performed at a Buffett tribute concert at the Hollywood Bowl on April 11.

  • Kenny Chesney

    You can’t talk about the connection between Jimmy Buffett and modern country music without mentioning Kenny Chesney. No one has brought country music to the beach more than him. His No Shoes Nation is a younger and more country version of Buffett’s faithful, the Parrotheads. His tribute to Buffett – a version of “A Pirate Looks At Forty,” accompanied by gently breaking waves – was one of the sweetest tributes to the man. He later performed it again at the CMAs. And as he told People, “He taught a lot of people about the poetry in just living, especially this kid from East Tennessee.” Buffett and Chesney collaborated on the song “Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season.”

  • Pitbull

    Pitbull wearing all black and performing

    Yeah, Pitbull. Every award show loves it when an icon influences someone outside of their genre. Pitbull — who, like Buffett, celebrates Florida and warm weather — is a Buffett fan and was a friend, too. His NSFW tribute, “Thank God & Jimmy Buffett,” is a country-influenced jam. At the beginning of the song he says, “Jimmy Buffett says it best: ‘When you lose yourself, is when you find the key to paradise.’ Rest in paradise, buddy!” Pitbull and Jon Bon Jovi performed the song at the Buffett tribute at the Hollywood Bowl, backed by the Coral Reefer Band.

  • Jack Johnson

     

    Outside of Buffett (and Chesney), not many musicians are as associated with beach culture (and rabid fanbases) as Jack Johnson, a surfer and native of Hawaii. He’s covered “A Pirate Looks At Forty” over the years, including the above version, which also features Dave Matthews (the Dave Matthews Band is also being inducted this year).

  • Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead

    Surely the guy who sang and played guitar to legions of Deadheads for decades has something to say about Buffett, whose Parrotheads were like a beachy, less jammy, less psychedelic version of the Grateful Dead’s tribe. Both artists were at the center of huge fan communities and did so without worrying about current trends in music or culture. We know that Buffett was a Dead fan. He not only covered “Scarlet Begonias,” and he also took part in a gorgeous all-star version of “Ripple.” And, as he told Andy Cohen, he and Jerry Garcia “Always wanted to play together, and see Deadheads and Parrotheads come together.” Bob Weir, as Jerry’s bandmate, might have a lot to say about Buffett.

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