Peter Bogdanovich in three movies (may he RIP)

The acclaimed movie director Peter Bogdanovich passed away yesterday at the age of 82. He directed several excellent films, but let me highlight three to give people a look into his work. Ironically, I watched two of his older films, “Paper Moon” and “The Last Picture Show” in the last few days, so I wonder if someone new the end was near and aired them..

Yet, the one I like the most he made in 1985 with Cher as a caring but tough mother in “Mask.” “Mask” starred Eric Stolz as a young teen whose facial bones grew in a distorted manner causing acute, tremendous pain and leaving him with a mask-like look. His mother would help him meditate through the pain to avoid giving him debilitating pain medicine. In my view, this movie was Cher’s best work, even better than in “Moonstruck,” where she won an Oscar.

The first scene in which you realize she is comforting her in-pain son is extremely poignant. Sam Elliot stars as Cher’s biker boyfriend. In spite of the pain and scary countenance, the teen was very smart and congenial, making fun of himself before others would. And, unless you saw the credits, you would never know the lead is played by Stolz, who is excellent, as well.

“The Last Picture Show” usually gets the most fanfare. Based on Larry McMurtry’s book and his co-written screen play with Bogdanovich, it is a black and white movie about small town life in Anarene, Texas in 1953. Cybil Shephard (in her first role), Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Sam Bottoms and Randy Quaid are the high schoolers featured, but a great cast of adults play key roles with Cloris Leachman (who won an Oscar for Supporting Actress), Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan, Ben Johnson and Clu Gulager.

Teen and adult angst are the key themes portrayed showing people will look for love even when they appear to have someone who fills the role. Interestingly, the only overtly protagonist is the silent role played by Sam Bottoms and maybe the sage like role of Ben Johnson, with all of the other characters being various shades of gray revealing our imperfections. Yet, you do feel for many of them at times, even though they do things you may not care for. Leachman’s Oscar is very deserving as she plays a dramatic role very different from her comedic future ones.

“Paper Moon” is another black and white film about a depression era con man played by Ryan O’Neal who travels Kansas and Missouri with his daughter. His actual daughter, Tatum O’Neal steals the show in the role and wins a deserved Oscar for her first performance. Madeline Kahn also plays a key role as the father’s new girlfriend and threat to the welfare of the younger O’Neal.

The lessons of making money through cons are passed down to the daughter, who he is traveling with to take her to stay with her aunt after her mother passes. She turns out to be an even savvier business-person than her father, knowing when to push on the accelerator or hit the brakes. She could also give an up-to-date accounting of the money her father owed her.

I wonder if the adult actor realized he was the straight man for this rising star. He does a great job in the role, but your eyes are on her facial expressions most of the time, as she is frustrated and bewildered by her father. Bogdanovich would later team with Ryan O’Neal in “What’s up Doc? with Barbra Streisand.

All three are excellent movies. “The Last Picture Show” though had an extra hurdle to overcome when it was given an X rating. It included a skinny dipping scene where some full frontal nudity is visible for a few females. To me, the scene was unneeded the way it was shot and much could have been accomplished with more subtlety. I forewarn you in case there are younger eyes in the room. Nonetheless, the story is good and worth the effort, as are the other two.

Dune – a remake that surpasses the original movie

“Dune” is a very good, complex movie about Frank Herbert’s complex novel. Yet, unlike the OK first movie, the remake did not take it on as one movie. So, there will be a sequel forthcoming.

Dune is a science fiction story around the politics and power of controlling production of a spice that aids in the navigation through the universe. The spice is found on the desert planet of Arrakis, where only the resilient can survive, primarily a vast tribe of people called the Fremen who value water and survival of the fittest.

The patriarch (the Duke Leto) of the Atreides family has been asked to oversee production on Arrakis by the emperor, but he is being set-up for failure. The story is more around his son Paul and his mother, the Lady Jessica who both have a capability that makes them each a powerful force. Paul is played by Timothee Challamet, Lady Jessica by Rebecca Ferguson, and the Duke by Oscar Isaac. Zendaya plays Chani who Paul dreams of and finally meets on the planet. 

Dune has a great ensemble cast to support the primary characters. Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgard, Jason Mamoa, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Babs Olusanmokun, et al, all add value to their roles. Skarsgard is quite good as major antagonist Baron Harkonnen, who used to oversee the spice production. Bardem and Zendaya will feature more in the sequel as Paul and the Lady Jessica have shown their worth to the Fremen toward the end of the movie.

The screenplay was written by the director Denis Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth. They deserve a lot of credit for boiling the plot down from the book. While the movie includes violence, the underlying story of intrigue comes out. Plus, there is an allegiance to the unrelenting desert life in the filming. For example, Lady Jessica appears without make-up throughout which would not serve her well in the sandy heat. The Fremen debate whether an infiltrator is worthy of being kept alive versus the water his or death would result in for their benefit. The mechanical transport and machinery must withstand the deterioration of the sand.

I will leave out more detailed plot description. The movie is quite good, even for those who are not huge science fiction fans. Yet, I don’t want to undersell the plot intrigue and otherworldly context. It helped me to have seen the first movie. One of my sons has read the novel, so he said this version is more closely resembling the book the earlier one. So, he and my other son join me in giving it a thumbs up.

Trying to get to heaven before they close the door (a reprise tribute to Bob Dylan courtesy of Joan Osborne)

The following is a repeat of an earlier post from before the pandemic It was our last concert before the world changed.

Joan Osborne is an under-appreciated singer, songwriter, who is best known for her song “If God was one of us.” Bob Dylan, of course, is a Nobel Laureate who can also write compelling music to go with his beautifully scripted words.

My wife and I traveled to Atlanta to see Osborne sing a host of Dylan’s songs in tribute. She also has produced a CD of such songs. Osborne has a sensual and sensuous style in her singing that adds seasoning to Dylan’s music. She also hand-picked songs that resonated with her, selecting some deeper cuts, a few of which we did not know.

Here are some of the highlights:

“Buckets of Rain” – She said Dylan wrote several love songs that do not get acclaim.   We were unfamiliar with this one, but it is a  treat live and as a recording,

“Tangled up in Blue” – This is my favorite Dylan song and she did more than justice to it. Her pacing and style revealed the saga portrayed by Dylan’s words.

“Highway 61 Revisited” – This is a great song, but an even better one live. She makes it more human, beginning with the example of Abraham.

“Quinn the Eskimo” – Many people do not know Dylan wrote this classic. She opened her show with this one, so we, had to think for a second.

“Tryin’ to get to Heaven” – This was my favorite version of a Dylan song. She accentuated with a strategic pause each time “before they close the door.”

“Gotta Serve Somebody” – She excelled on this classic Dylan song. It was much more sensual and bluesy than Dylan could offer with his singing.

“Masters of War” – This was another Dylan song which was unfamiliar to us, but it is classic Dylan in protest chastising those who say you can win a war without costs.

“Don’t think twice, it’s alright” – When I think of this one, I think of Peter, Paul and Mary paying homage to Dylan. She covered it well.

She did not sing these songs during the concert, but she includes them in her CD.

“Dark Eyes”
“You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go”
“Rainy Day Women”

She probably dropped them as she sang a couple of songs she has yet to release along with her biggest hit. If you do not know Osborne, download or purchase her CDs. “Relish” is her second CD which won a Grammy. Our favorite is “Righteous Love,” which we saw her perform on Austin City Limits. Or, just buy her “Songs of Bob Dylan” CD.

Since it was a small venue, we got a chance to speak with her afterwards. She is very gracious and down-to-earth. And, definitely worth the listening.

What if you took that other path or were forced to walk down it?

I think we have all thought about choices we made in our past that sent us down a path where we experienced life events. It goes back to Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” What if we took the other road? There is a new TV show that I have not yet seen, but the concept follows this thought process. It is called “Ordinary Joe,” and per the show summary, here is what it entails.

“Ordinary Joe” stars James Wolk and centers on Joe Kimbreau as he makes a pivotal, life-changing decision at his college graduation and follows him on three parallel timelines: as a police officer, as a music star, and as a nurse.

I am fairly certain this show will make all watchers think about their own lives and choices. But, as we ponder these choices, we need to realize it means what happened to your actual life may not or will not happen like it has.

As with many lives, we have experienced good and bad things. We hopefully learned from the latter and were made stronger, but we have experienced those wonderful things as well. With that said, if the bad things severely outweigh the good, thinking of other choices is a far easier thing to do. To me, those are more clear cut rueful circumstances.

There is another interesting movie a blogging friend reminded me of a few months ago, that follows this what-if concept. It is called Sliding Doors and a summary of its plot from Wikipedia follows:

“Sliding Doors” is a 1998 romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Peter Howitt and starring Gwyneth Paltrow while also featuring John HannahJohn Lynch, and Jeanne Tripplehorn. The film alternates between two storylines, showing two paths the central character’s life could take depending on whether or not she catches a train. It has drawn numerous comparisons to Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski‘s 1987 film Blind Chance, the outcome of which also hinges on whether or not the protagonist catches a train.

“Sliding Doors” is an excellent movie, although it is hard to follow at first, as it flips back and forth as to what happens if Paltrow’s character misses or makes the train. But, once you get in the groove of the action, it is spellbinding. Hannah is her co-star – you may remember him best from “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and his memorable eulogy for his close friend.

The concept is fascinating to explore, but be prepared as you examine your own life choices. We all have made dumb mistakes and rued decisions, big and small. But, it is also true those decisions and mistakes are part of our fabric that hopefully helped us down the road. Maybe, by handling a few relationships poorly, we were better able to nurture the right one when he or she (or they) came along. Or, maybe we are able to make a different career move or understand its ramifications better..

I remember one life moment around changing my mind after accepting a job. The life altering moment came as I was packing my office up, so it was very late in the game. I called my wife and said “I can’t do this” and she replied “Pack?” and I said “No, leave.” Had i taken the job, it would have been fine, but by staying and gracefully backing out of the offer, I was able to go work for the same company in a much better job. Plus, I loved my old job and was not ready to leave, just yet.

Robert Frost was onto something. Sometimes that decision to walk down a the road less traveled does make all the difference. But, if you took the other one, you would have made the best of it. And, you may not have known what you missed,.

Four more movies worth a look

I decided to mention a couple of movies that are more mainstream. Some of these, you may have seen. So, here goes. I will not spoil the endings, but must caution you on reading the comments.

A Perfect Man – released in 2013, it stars Liev Schreiber and Jeanne Tripplehorn, with a co-starring role for Louise Fletcher. I have always liked Tripplehorn, as she brings a vulnerability to the role of the wife of a womanizing husband played by Schreiber. She continued to give multiple chances to her husband until she finally leaves him. After over-hearing him talk to a perfect stranger on the phone as he canceled airline tickets for them, she decided to call him as a wrong number and fake persona to hear him flirt and open up with her. She learns why he is the way he is and that he does, in fact, love her. The movie is directed by Kees van Oostrin and is written by Larry Brand and Peter Elkoff.

The Good Heart – released in 2009, it stars Paul Dano, Brian Cox and Isild Le Besco. Cox is a cantankerous bar owner who has a bad heart, which is not a surprise given how he lives. He befriends Dano in the hospital who is his roommate after Dano tried to commit suicide. Dano is a kind soul who is in need of a helping hand, so Cox’s character brings him into the bar to help him. They learn from each other, but their relationship is tested when Le Besco, a woman who has no place to go, is invited to stay with them over the bar owner’s objections. Cox plays irascible characters quite well and Dano has this innocent countenance about him. The movie is written and directed by Dagur Kari.

Tully – released in 2018, it stars Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis and Mark Duplass. Theron plays a mother who is suffering from post-partum depression while nursing her third child with her husband played by Duplass. Theron has never hesitated to play roles of women who are struggling. Davis plays Tully who is hired to be a night time nanny, so the mother can get some sleep and recover. Davis tells her she is only there to help her get over this period. The two women bond as Theron sees a lot of who she used to be in Davis. The movie is directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody.

The Sixth Sense – released in 1999, it stars Bruce Willis, Hayley Joel Osment and Toni Collette. Osment and Collette were nominated for Oscars as was M. Night Shyamalan as director. and writer, and the movie itself. My wife was puzzled that I had not seen such an acclaimed movie. Willis plays a child psychologist who helps a tormented young boy who we know from many movie advertisements, “I see dead people.” Collette plays Osment mother and there is a reason she also gets an Oscar nomination. Olivia Williams plays Willis’ wife who we learn is suffering from depression. While the movie focuses on the boy and his doctor, the mother-son relationship is also key. And, Willis and his wife’s relationship is not unimportant as we see him struggle with his wife’s depression wanting him to do more to help her.

All four movies are good, but the latter two get more acclaim and rightfully so. Let me know what you think below. Also, I will repeat to those who have not seen the movies to be mindful of spoiler alerts below in the comments. Commenters, please edit your comments to not reveal too much of the plots. .

A few more movies worth a visit

We have seen a few more movies since I last gave an update. Some we rented from the local non-profit video store I have mentioned, others we saw on the television and one we just saw in the theater. Let me start with the more recent theater one and go back in time from there.

Dear Evan Hansen – This is a movie based on the highly successful musical play starring Ben Platt who played the first Evan Hansen on Broadway. The theme is complex and very sobering and the music is well done sung by a host of high school and parent singers. You will go through a range of emotions, so please bring some tissue. The story is advertised in the previews, so it won’t be telling too much to say Evan Hansen, a troubled teen, was asked by his therapist to write a letter to himself. Another troubled teen steals the letter from Evan and unfortunately commits suicide leading his parents to believe Evan was their son’s friend, when they thought he had none. The movie was directed by Stephen Chbosky and also stars Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani and Julianne Moore.

16 Blocks – This one is surprisingly good, but I wondered why I did not remember it coming out a few years back. In essence, Bruce Willis plays a disgruntled, weather-beaten cop who was set up to fail in delivering Mos Def’s character in protective custody sixteen blocks to testify against a rogue cop. The relationship between the two men evolves especially when Willis’ character decided to do something unusual – the right thing. It is directed by Richard Donner and also stars David Morse, Jenna Stern, David Zayas.

Local Color – This movie is also surprisingly good. It is a coming age of movie based on a true story about an artistic (and observant) eighteen year-old who wants to learn from a renowned, but reclusive artist who lives near by. The teen is played by Trevor Morgan with Armin Mueller-Stahl playing the curmudgeonly artist who is far more complex. Samantha Mathis plays a nearby friend of the artist who reminds him of his long ago deceased wife. She is getting over the loss of her son due to a car accident, so she is also in need of some healing. Key small roles are played by Ray Liotta as Trevor’s father, Ron Perlman as a self-professed art expert and Charles Durning as an early mentor. The movie is directed by George Gallo.

Conflict – an old black and white film is an excellent movie as well. It stars Humphrey Bogart and Sidney Greenstreet, but this time in reversed roles. Bogart plays the antagonist in this one, with Greenstreet an observant doctor. The movie is advertised as Bogart’s character killing his wife because he is in love with her sister, which happens early on. From there I will leave it to your imagination. I was wondering why I had not heard of this movie before and it may be due to Bogart playing the heavy. The movie was directed by Curtis Bernhardt and also stars Rose Hobart as the fated wife and Alexis Smith as her sister.

A couple of other movies that are also good are “Trucker” with Michelle Monaghan and Nathan Fillion about a mother who has to take care of her son while being a trucker, as his father is dying and “Phone Booth” starring Colin Ferrell, Forrest Whitaker, Radha Mitchell, Katie Holmes and Kiefer Sutherland which is about a sniper forcing a selected man to stay in a phone booth until he gets satisfaction with the man confessing his sins to his wife and mistress. I would also give high marks to “Biutiful” with Javier Bardem, but this one is in Spanish with subtitles and “3:10 to Yuma” with Christian Bale and Russel Crowe.

Let me know what you think. If you have seen them, please share your feedback. Are there others you have seen that are worth letting others know?

RESPECT – a movie worth watching about Aretha

My wife and I saw the terrific biopic about Aretha Franklin called “RESPECT” yesterday starring Jennifer Hudson. Hudson does a highly commendable job as Franklin, but that is less a surprise given her credentials and that Franklin asked her to play the role before she passed.

The acting is excellent with Forest Whittaker playing her dominant father, Audra McDonald playing her mother, Marlon Wayans as a first love interest, and Skye as a young Aretha. The movie pulls few punches showing Franklin’s shortcomings (such as her bout with alcohol) as well as her many successes.

However, the music, its creation and its performance, is what got folks clapping in the theater. Seeing Hudson as Franklin work with musicians to create “I’ve never loved a man” or with her sisters to adapt Otis Redding’s “Respect” is worth the ticket by themselves. Seeing Hudson perform “Natural Woman” and “Amazing Grace” are quite eventful.

The movie is directed by Liesl Tommy off the screenplay written by Tracey Scott Wilson based on the story by Callie Khouri. I will not give any more of the plot away, but simply encourage you to go see it.

I’ve Loved these Days – a tribute to Billy Joel (encore)

Our friend Jill just highlighted Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” yesterday. It got me reminiscing about an old post that I will repost today. The following highlights some of Joel’s lesser known songs.

So before we end and then begin
We’ll drink a toast to how it’s been
A few more hours to be complete
A few more nights on satin sheets
A few more times that I can say
I’ve loved these days

While the choice is so very hard, this is the end to my favorite Billy Joel song – “I’ve Loved These Days.” It is not his most famous, but like many, it is very pure and heartfelt. I have not written a tribute to Billy Joel before, as it is quite difficult to hone down to a list of songs to highlight. One of these days, I will attempt The Beatles, Rolling Stones or Bruce Springsteen, but for now let my highlight one of the best songwriters of our time, William Martin Joel.

I like this song for the somber remembrance and the quiet echo of we are mortal, so let’s make the best of it. He has so many songs like this which have both meaning and wonderful music to highlight the words. As with other tribute posts, I am going to stay away from the biggest hits, yet I will mention some below. Another melancholy song along these same lines is “Summer, Highland Falls.” Here is a brief taste of lyrics:

How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies
Perhaps we don’t fulfill each others fantasies
And as we stand upon the ledges of our lives,
With our respective similarities
It’s either sadness of euphoria

This song is a little more unique, as his wordsmithing and tune is catchy, but the words are so powerful. I take away from this song that none of us are perfect, so let’s do the best we can to fulfill each other. The choice is sadness or euphoria.

Another favorite is one of several where he shows his love for New York City. This if from “A New York State of Mind”:

Some folks like to get away,
Take a holiday from the neighborhood.
Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood.
But I’m takin’ a Greyhound on the Hudson River line.
I’m in a New York state of mind.

While many of his songs are reflective and focus on our imperfect humanity (“Honesty”, “Captain Jack”, and “The Stranger”, Joel is quite the romantic and nostalgic person. A wonderfully written song, which needs to be listened to carefully is “She’s Always a Woman”. Here is a very small sample, as you cannot take this song out of context:

But, she’ll bring out the best
And the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself
Cause she’s always a woman to me

The message to me is his lover is her own person. She will think for herself, so it is up to you to understand this and, if you do, then you can have a wonderful, meaningful relationship. If you don’t, then you better get out-of-the-way, as she wants someone who will love her for herself and not who you want her to be.

The romantic comes out in “Just the Way You Are”, “Tell Her About It”, “You’re My Home”, “Uptown Girl” and “She’s Got a Way”. But, the nostalgic songs are great as well. “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”, “Only the Good Die Young” and “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” are excellent samples. One of my favorite nostalgic songs is “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” the song about Brenda and Eddie who were the king and queen of the prom, got married but divorced early and could never go back again. The song starts and ends at our favorite Italian place with a melancholy accordion playing in the background:

A bottle of red, and bottle of white
Whatever kind of mood you’re in tonight
I’ll meet you anytime you want
In our Italian Restaurant

Joel is most known for his first, most memorable hit “Piano Man” although he did make the charts earlier with “The Entertainer” an appropriately named song. Piano Man is sung as limerick and tells the tales of grandeur of all of the folks at the bar. The song concludes:

And the piano sounds like a carnival. And the microphone smells like a beer. And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar. And say “Man what are you doing here?”

Sing us a song you’re the piano man. Sing us a song tonight.  Well we’re all in the mood for a melody. And you’ve got us feeling alright

Thank goodness, Joel was given a much bigger platform to sing than this piano bar. I have left off so many songs, many of my favorites. I did not want to make this post a list, as it easily could have been. If you have not truly discovered Joel click here: http://www.billyjoel.com. If you have and want to wax nostalgic, go for a ride on the Hudson River Line with Billy as well. I will leave you with some lines from “Everybody Has a Dream”:

So let me lie and let me go on sleeping
And I will lose myself in palaces of sand
And all the fantasies that I have been keeping
Will make the empty hours easier to stand
I know that everybody has a dream
Everybody has a dream
And this is my dream, my own
Just to be at home
And to be all alone…with you.

Thanks Billy. Like you “I’ve Loved These Days.”

Billy Joel – I’ve Loved These Days (Audio) – YouTube

A few movies worth a nostalgic look (a revisit)

My wife and I rented few new releases and enjoyed them, but felt nostalgic about some older movies. “Gone Girl” was good, but the characters were not very redeeming. “Interstellar” was good for the relationship between father and daughter, but was on the bizarre side toward the end. Of the three, we did enjoy “Wild” the most with Reece Witherspoon hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself, but Laura Dern helps the movie greatly in flash backs as her mother.

I was thinking about some older movies that may be under the radar screen on searches for movies, but offer a sense of nostalgia as well as coming of age. So, in no particular order:

Breaking Away – made in 1979 and won an Oscar for best screenplay. Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley and Daniel Stern star in a movie about four kids who have graduated high school and are trying to find themselves in Bloomington, Indiana where Indiana University is located. Christopher is fascinated by all things Italian as he has become a world-class bicyclist and the Italian team is the best and coming to town. Paul Dooley, as the former stone cutter and now used car salesman, steals many a scene.

Summer of 42 – made in 1971 and won an Oscar for best music score. Jennifer O’Neill, who every boy falls in love with in the movie and audience, Gary Grimes, Jerry Houser star in the movie based on a summer on the Nantucket shore. The boys are coming of age during the onset of WWII and O’Neill’s husband has been deployed. The story is told from Grimes’ character’s perspective looking back at that summer as he discovers love and loss.

American Graffiti – made in 1973 by George Lucas and starring a huge cast of soon to be famous young actors – Richard Dreyfus, Ron Howard (was only known as Opie at that time), Cindy Williams, Paul Le Mat, Mackenzie Phillips, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Bo Hopkins, Candy Clark and Wolfman Jack. It is nostalgic and mirror into a different time as Dreyfus and Howard’s characters are headed off to college the next day. The movie spawned the TV show “Happy Days” which eventually led to “Laverne and Shirley” as a spin-off.

Each of these movies are nostalgic in nature. Kids are coming of age and wondering what it is all about. “Breaking Away” is set in the 1970s, “Summer of 42” is obviously set during the 1940s and “American Graffiti” is at the brink of the 1960s. Kids have not changed in this outlook to discover what is it all about. Today’s kids are more technologically advanced and are seeing a world change at a fast pace, yet they have many of the same questions.

To me, I go back to “Breaking Away” and the father son chat at the end between Christopher and Dooley’s characters. Christopher and his fellow mates have always felt and been put down as “cutters” short for stone cutters. As they walked through IU’s campus, the father notes “we” carved these beautiful stones that made these buildings on campus, but once they were erected, we felt the buildings were too good for us. The son responds “I don’t mind being a cutter.” The Dad says, “You’re not a cutter. I am cutter.” He is telling his son, do not limit yourself by what I accomplished. Go find yourself.

And, that is the best advice for any of us. Go find yourself. That may be why we liked “Wild” the most of the three newer movies, as Witherspoon’s character was looking to find the woman her mother knew was always there.

From Pirates to Parrot Heads – a tribute to Jimmy Buffett (a reprise)

Some of the most loyal fans in music are lovingly referred to as “Parrot Heads,” given the name by the focus of their attention, the wannabe pirate, Jimmy Buffett. The singer, songwriter and pied-piper romanticizes the rebel deep within all of us by envying the pirate lifestyle of few rules and more imbibing. From one of his reflective songs, “A Pirate Looks at 40,” Buffett sings:

Yes, I am a pirate two hundred years too late
Cannons don’t thunder there’s nothin’ to plunder
I’m an over forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late

While it is truly hard to find a Buffett song where imbibing does not occur, his words are extremely reflective of humanity and our imperfections. Like a sailor away from port, he often thinks fondly of people, places and times. Since he is a sailor as well, this may be where his songwriting originates. My favorite Buffett song “He Went to Paris” is one of those reflective songs, where an old sailor retired to the islands recounts his story when prodded. He went off to Paris, full of energy and then… Here are the first few verses:

He went to Paris looking for answers
To questions that bothered him so
He was impressive, young and aggressive
Saving the world on his own

But the warm summer breezes
The French wines and cheeses
Put his ambition at bay
The summers and winters
Scattered like splinters
And four or five years slipped away

Then he went to England, played the piano
And married an actress named Kim
They had a fine life, she was a good wife
And bore him a young son named Jim

And all of the answers and all of the questions
Locked in his attic one day
‘Cause he liked the quiet clean country living
And twenty more years slipped away

This song is extra special to me as I would sing it to my kids as we rocked in the glider before they fell asleepProbably, my second favorite Buffett song and one of his bigger hits is “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude.”  Here are a few of his reflections:

Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places I’ve been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again
If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall
Good times and riches and son of a bitches
I’ve seen more than I can recall

But, Buffett had a fun side, where he explained his and our own foibles. One of those songs has a fun title “We are the People our Parents Warned about.”

We are the people there isn’t any doubt
We are the people they still can’t figure out
We are the people who love to sing twist and shout
Shake it up baby
We are the people our parents warned us about (do do do dooo)

I also enjoy some of the clever references in many of his songs which provide mental context, such as what Desi Arnaz wore in “I Love Lucy.”  In “Pencil Thin Mustache,” he sings:

That’s why I wish I had a pencil thin mustache
The Boston blackie kind
A two-toned Ricky Ricardo jacket
And an autographed picture of Andy Devine

Oh, I could be anyone I wanted to be
Maybe suave Errol Flynn or the sheik of Araby
If I only had a pencil thin mustache
Then I could do some cruisin’ too

Buffett has a huge inventory of songs that his Parrot Heads can sing word for word. I think that is why he chose the name of his fans. His biggest hits “Come Monday” and “Margaritaville” are surrounded by wonderful songs such “Boat Drinks,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “The Captain and the Kid,” “The Last Tango in Paris,” “Grapefruit-Juicy Fruit,” “Volcano,” and  so on. As this tribute could go on forever, let me end with our sailor theme with words from another classic “A Son of a Son of a Sailor.”

As the son of a son of a sailor
I went out on the sea for adventure
Expanding the view of the captain and crew
Like a man just released from indenture

As a dreamer of dreams and a travelin’ man
I have chalked up many a mile
Read dozens of books about heroes and crooks
And I learned much from both of their styles

I love Buffett’s ability to make us also romanticize, reflect, laugh and sometimes cry. It may be because he dared to be the rebel on occasion, but it his ability to tell us about it that brings us Parrot Heads along for the journey.

In a final note, Parrot Heads exist in all shapes and colors. In my business travels and meetings, I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of Parrot Heads I have met along the way. My favorite story is of a straight laced female HR person who had a picture of her and her husband with Buffett on her credenza. “I did not know you were a Parrot Head?” I asked and we had a much more jovial meeting.