Jimmy Buffett Remembers Promoter George Wein in Heartfelt Tribute

by Jennifer Shea

Legendary musician Jimmy Buffett is paying tribute to another legend: promoter and jazz impresario George Wein, who died last week at age 95.

“George Wein lived fully for 95 years. And the fact that he was on this earth that long creating music festivals all around the world is a gift to us all,” Buffett wrote in a post on his website. “Two of my most treasured memories of playing on a stage for over 50 years, were thanks to George; in New Orleans and Newport.”

The singer went on to say that he last saw Wein in New York when their interviews for a music documentary overlapped. Wein was walking in as Buffett was leaving. But he stuck around to listen to Wein’s interview and was happy he did. Another recent documentary Buffett worked on, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, also brought many reminders of Wein.

“George sure made a lot of people smile and dance, and his legacy will be long, soulful, and sweet,” Jimmy Buffett concluded. “Merci George.”

George Wein Founded the Newport Jazz Festival, Among Others

Before he took to founding music festivals, Wein was a Boston nightclub owner and pianist, according to the Boston Globe. In 1952, for example, the great drummer Jo Jones upbraided Wein at Wein’s club over Wein’s piano playing.

“George, you gotta make your mind up whether you wanna run a nightclub or play piano,” Jones told him, per the Globe. “I’m sorry, man, but I just can’t use you.”

“Jo was absolutely right,” Wein later conceded, with characteristic good humor. “I was lousing him up good.”

Wein prided himself on his piano playing. But he would go down in music history for his work as a concert promoter. In 1954, he founded the Newport Jazz Festival. It featured a lineup that included Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and Lester Young, the Associated Press reports.

Building on the success of that festival, Wein went on to launch the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice, France. His festival model was hailed as an inspiration for the likes of Woodstock and Lollapalooza.

Buffett has played the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival multiple times over the years.

Wein died peacefully in his sleep at his home in New York City, according to the AP.

Jimmy Buffett Has a Musical That’s Touring the Country

Meanwhile, Buffett has been keeping busy with his own artistic endeavors. The singer’s musical – which premiered on Broadway in February of 2018 – is currently touring the country. Titled “Escape to Margaritaville,” the musical features songs off a list that Buffett refers to as, “The 15 Songs We Have to Play or Get Killed,” the Arizona Republic reports.

Buffett makes sure to hit each of those 15 songs at every concert he plays, lest his fans turn on him.

“I think of it as we’re lucky to be up there and these people love the songs. So I’m gonna play them,” Buffett told the Republic.

Songs like “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” and, of course, “Margaritaville” comprise the backbone of the musical comedy currently on a national tour.

“Margaritaville has been a myth for such a long time,” Buffett told the Republic. “There was no such place as Margaritaville. It was a made-up place in my mind, basically made up about my experiences in Key West.”

But now the fictional locale is a concrete setting (albeit a touring musical set). And Buffett calls it “pure escapism,” because after all, whether it’s a jazz festival or a country music tune, what else does good music do but transport the listener?

“It’s really a part of the human condition that you’ve got to have some fun,” Buffett said.