The eyes of the country music world, and thousands of others who do not normally watch, experienced an unusual and moving musical celebration of the life of the late Jimmy Buffett.
The 2023 "CMA Awards Show" on ABC and live at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday saw Corral Reefer band member Mac McAnally lead an all-star cast in a musical memorial.
Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney and the Zac Brown band teamed up with Mac to deliver a tribute to the versatile singer/songwriter, who died on September 1 at age 76 from Merkel cell carcinoma.
The tribute was a multi-media show with images of Buffett in scenes from his ocean life and musical life on jumbo screens behind the performers.
The show will be archived and available on demand on Thursday on Hulu.
The duo of McAnally, from Red Bay and now living in Sheffield, and Chesney opened the musical wake. Sitting on barstools, they sang Buffett's autobiographical, "A Pirate Looks at Forty."
Chesney and McAnally both individually sang verses and then joined in harmony. It was a natural for Mac because he had been Buffett's vocal harmonizer for decades.
In Mac's rendition, he changed the words of the song – "just a few friends" to "Jimmy made a whole world of friends."
Alan Jackson and the Zac Brown Band were the second act of the tribute. Jackson's biggest hit, "It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere," had featured Buffett singing the third verse. When Buffett and the Coral Reefers played it live, they had McAnally sing the Alan Jackson verses, and Buffett sing his own verse.
The duo dressed Parrothead-style, with Jackson in sunglasses and Zac Brown barefoot (a Buffett thing) and wearing casual shorts with a tropical shirt.
The two sang an appropriate farewell "Adios My Friend," and then changed tempo to Buffet's top hit and upbeat theme song, "Margaritaville." Quick takes of the audience showed them singing along, especially on the lines, "lost shaker of salt – salt – salt."
Each singer in the tribute had a personal connection with Buffett.
Earlier in the CMA show, performers would spontaneously interject parting words to Jimmy Buffett.
Will Buffett continue to be remembered in song and word, sort of like the music of Elvis is still alive a half-century later? Likely so. In addition to writing and singing the songs, Buffett symbolized a lifestyle. The laid-back, beach, ocean-going, partying, Caribbean style. That does not even encapsulate it. The Buffett life. The Parrothead life. That life was on display for the world to see at the CMA Awards.
Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].
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