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A Grin at the End: Troubadours – Singing the stories of our lives

I was heading to the store for another batch of stool softener — if you’re over 70 you’ll understand — when I heard the news: Jimmy Buffett had died. 

I’m not prone to emotions, but this did make me sad. Not “boo-hoo” sad; more like “that’s too bad” sad. His music had followed me through a big chunk of my adult life. Songs like “Come Monday,” “Margaritaville” and even “Cheeseburger in Paradise” struck a chord with me. I listened to his music and read his books. He was also an airplane nut, which put him at a whole other altitude, in my humble opinion.

In other words, he seemed like my kind of guy. I would have loved the opportunity to have a cup of coffee with him.

We all have troubadours in our lives. Jimmy was one. He built an empire based on his laid-back image. He reminded me of a duck swimming, serene above the waterline but paddling like crazy below. I’m told he became a billionaire. That didn’t come from only strumming his six-string on a porch swing. He worked hard composing, writing, building hotels and cultivating a following of Parrotheads, fans who enjoyed the concept of relaxing while working at it.

In his early days, Buffett really was a troubadour. He’d play at bars, coffee houses and other venues in places like New Orleans, passing the hat among those patrons who listened to what he had to sing and say.
His songs serve as markers along the highway, helping us remember how we rocked, rattled and rambled through life. We all remember the songs that were popular in high school, when we got married and other special occasions.

Jimmy’s songs were like that. 

But he wasn’t the only one. Thankfully, there are many other troubadours out there. Right here, they are performing in local bars, brew pubs and other venues. They don’t arrive in a Gulfstream or leave in a limousine. You might be able to buy a souvenir T-shirt from them — and they will be the cashier. 

They sing, play the guitar, and share their music with the audience. They are storytellers in the original sense of the word. They sing about life, love, and other things that we all experience. They don’t have a huge backup band or elaborate light show. They have a guitar and maybe a harmonica.

It is a wonderful way to spend an evening, listening to these 21st century troubadours as they reveal something about themselves — and all of us. It’s something Netflix can’t do. Nor can Nintendo.

At the end of their performances, I always try to offer them some words of encouragement. I want them to keep gigging and growing. 

They provide a sound track to our lives, and no one else can do it like them.

So sing on, keep the beat and tell us a story.

Carl Sampson is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in Stayton.

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