4) Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffett
The national anthem for Parrotheads everywhere, Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” patented a state-of-mind that sells millions in concert tickets, books, and flip-flops every year. Brains across the world bear tattoos of the lyrics as the song has reached an insane level of ubiquity. As such, the opening notes of the song produce a definite gut reaction in people. It just depends on who you are and how much you’ve drank that determines what that gut reaction might sound like.
Off 1977’s Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, “Margaritaville” reached number eight on Billboard’s Hot 100 and peaked at number 13 on the Hot Country Songs chart. Over the years, Jimmy Buffett has continued to cross the lines between the pop charts, the country charts, and the island charts (if such a thing existed). Give the man credit: he knows how to cultivate an audience.
Besides, belting out the chorus (ironically or not) feels pretty damn good after a few of the titular beverages. Love it or hate it, “Margaritaville” is here to stay.
3) Whiskey River – Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson didn’t even write one of most beloved drinking songs, but being the master of making a song his own, “Whiskey River” rushed near the top of our list. The song is a broken-hearted lament, but in Willie’s hands, it sounds positively triumphant.
Nelson and Johnny Bush both joined Ray Price’s band in the early 1960s and became fast friends. When Bush released his first album in the late 60s, “Whiskey River” acted as its lead single. The Red Headed Stranger not only handled production duties and financing for the album, he undoubtedly took a liking to Bush’s song.
In the late 1970s, Nelson decided to record his own interpretation of “Whiskey River.” According to Nelson, repeat performances of the song in concert produced the gaping hole in his favorite guitar, Trigger. Luckily, there are no holes in this drinking song. It’s a keeper.
2) There’s a Tear in My Beer – Hank Williams
Hank Williams doesn’t have a monopoly on lonesome drinking songs, but “There’s a Tear in My Beer” is so sad it should come with a warning label. Not one for knowing when to say when, Williams declares he’s “Gonna keep drinkin’ / ‘Till I can’t move a toe / And then maybe my heart / Won’t hurt me so.”
The song is even sadder with the knowledge that Williams famously struggled with alcohol throughout his short life. Roy Acuff admonished Williams after he repeatedly showed up drunk for his radio show saying, “You’ve got a million-dollar voice, son, but a ten-cent brain.”
Hank Williams, Jr. recorded a duet of the song with his deceased father, but the slick production of the remake can’t match the sparse sadness of the original, even if it did win a bunch of awards.
Nobody does drunk and lonely like Hank.
Be sure to check back next week to see which song will claim the top spot.