Hitting a Nerve

The magic of music


I’m really going to miss Jimmy Buffett.

I’ve liked his music as far back as I can remember, and was lucky enough to see him in person in the mid-90s.

I’ve written about music before, but its affect on us never fails to amaze me. Songs can be background noise conducive to getting things done. They can also be in the foreground, serving as a mental vacation (or accompanying a real one). They can transport you to another place, briefly clearing your head from the daily goings-on around you. Even if it’s just during the drive home, it’s a welcome escape to a virtual beach and tropical drink.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

Songs can bring back memories of certain events or people that we link them to. My dad loved anything by Neil Diamond, and nothing brings back thoughts of Dad more than when my iTunes randomly picks “I Am ... I Said.” Or John Williams’ Star Wars theme, taking me back to the summer of 1977 when I sat, spellbound, by this incredible movie whose magic is still going strong two generations later.

It’s amazing how our brain tries to make music out of nothing. Even in silence we have ear worms, the songs stuck in our head for hours to days (recently I’ve had “I Sing the Body Electric” from the 1980 movie Fame playing in there).

My office is over an MRI scanner, so I can always hear the chiller pumps softly running in the background. Sometimes my brain will turn their rhythmic chirping into a song, altering the pace of the song to fit them. The soft clicking of the ceiling fan, in my home office, does the same thing (for some reason my brain usually tries to fit “Yellow Submarine” to that one, no idea why).

Music is a part of that mysterious essence that makes us human. It touches all of us in some way, which varies between people, songs, and artists.

Jimmy Buffet’s music has a vacation vibe. Songs of the Caribbean & Keys, beaches, bars, boats, and tropical drinks. The 4:12 running time of his most well-known song, “Margaritaville,” gives a brief respite from my day when it comes on.

He passes into the beyond, to the sadness of his family, friends, and fans. But, unlike people, music can be immortal, and so he lives on through his creations. Like, Bach, Lennon, Bowie, Joplin, Sousa, and too many others to count, his work – and the enjoyment we get from it – are a gift left behind for the future.

Tight lines, Jimmy.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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