As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve rather suddenly found myself listening to—and seriously enjoying—the works of Jimmy Buffett. I’ve resisted my desire to discuss his music with much depth, because writing about his older works feels redundant given its notoriety, and my knowledge of his decades-long career is not extensive enough for a meaningful examination of his newest releases. However, I would like to take the time here to discuss a song that has the honor of being one of my absolute favorite pieces that I’ve heard from him.
“Oldest Surfer on the Beach” comes off of his 2013 release, Songs from St. Somewhere, acting essentially as its concluding track. Technically, it’s the penultimate one due to a bonus track claiming that spot, but the atmospheric piece fits flawlessly as the album’s final chapter. Written by Mark Knopfler, who’s also featured on guitar, the soft-rock ballad follows the reflections of an aging surfer at the end of a relaxing day at the beach, perfectly encapsulating a carefree mentality as the album drifts to a close.
Each part of the song works perfectly in harmony to create its calming effect. The deep timbre of Buffett’s voice is perfectly accompanied by the resonant guitar to give it a particularly soothing quality, while its calm tempo along with gentle percussion and softly strummed acoustic guitar emphasize an utter lack of worries.
As if this weren’t enough in itself, the lyrics describe the scene beautifully; it makes it easy to close your eyes and imagine yourself on the water under a painted sunset, stress a distant memory as Buffett croons, “I stopped searching for perfection / Many waves ago / What really matters is the here and now / And that’s about all I know.”
Yet the song is no less powerful when the lyrics cease; at about two and a half minutes in, the second chorus ends and primarily turns to a musical outro as Buffett sings the chorus’s final line only a few more times, as if to give himself over so thoroughly to the innate relaxation that there’s nothing left to say. Eventually, the guitar fades into the sampled sound of the ocean, engulfing the end of the track in the only way fitting for a song about a calm day on the beach.
It’s impossible to precisely describe such a gorgeous piece, or to explain how I’m so enchanted by it as someone who isn’t much of a beachgoer, but I can direct you to the video below; if you’re anything like me, you’ll be enamored with it in seconds.