Throughout the centuries, various societies have conjured mythical islands in response to their own cultural needs. Hy Brasil, for instance, offered European societies a measure of comfort against the vast emptiness of the Atlantic Ocean and the uncertainty of what lay beyond it.
For the past fifty years or so, Jimmy Buffett has been writing and singing about islands both real and imaginary. His audience, though boasting a worldwide membership, is mostly American. His island fantasias are easily attained – in the first instance by the yachting classes of East Coast America but also, just as easily, by anyone willing to pull on a grass skirt, order a margarita and get swept up in the music he plays.
The paper will examine the features of Buffett’s island construct and consider the cultural work it performs. It will show that the affable Jimmy character which Buffett performs on stage and the autobiographical Jimmy of A Pirate Looks at Fifty, mask the more entrepreneurial aspects of his identity. As a performer, writer and business man, Buffett uses his imagined islands to express and capitalise on the malaises of middle America. While the islands conjured up by this barefoot troubadour enchant and intoxicate, they also offer an implicit commentary on contemporary urban culture.