Behind The Song: Jimmy Buffett, “Cheeseburger in Paradise”

“Cheeseburger in Paradise”

Written by Jimmy Buffett

As I sit among the cozy confines of my living room, writing about one of my favorite food songs of all time, I am reminded yet again, just how much a song can affect one’s appetite. Only one line into this article, and I am ready for an appetizer, or at least a refill on my frosty mug of ambition. Disclaimer: If you are on a diet, or live among the realm of the vegetarian culture, please take heed, this song makes you hungry.  

If hunger is a consequence of listening to this song, perhaps it comes as a side-effect of its literal inspiration. The story, according to Buffett, began on his boat somewhere in the Caribbean. During a sailing voyage, a mishap occurred on-board which forced Buffett and his crew to stay at sea longer than anticipated. After most of the choice food items were exhausted, Buffett was left with only a few canned goods and peanut butter in the pantry. As the crew became increasingly hungry, musical inspiration began to take hold. Buffett and crew eventually made it to a safe harbor, and headed directly for the closest hamburger they could find. According to Buffett, the actual burgers may not have been that great, but his hunger was the motivating factor behind the song. 

Cheeseburger in Paradise debuted on Buffett’s 1978 album, Son of a Sailor, but also went on to appear on his greatest hits album Songs You Know By Heart and this 1992 compilation box-set, Boats, Beaches, Bars and Ballads.  The box set comes with a “Parrothead Handbook,” full of stories about the songs in the compilation. The book even includes a list of Buffett’s favorite cheeseburger joints around the country. If you visit a Margaritaville restaurant, or his sister’s restaurant, LuLu’s Homeport Marina, you can order a cheeseburger in paradise, fully dressed with fries. Both of which, have received rave reviews and go excellent with an ice cold beer, or three.

A common misheard lyric in the song occurs during the line: “cheeseburger in paradise, medium rare with Muenster’d be nice,” which is often confused for the word “mustard.” As a side note, after writing this article, I am absolutely starving. I wonder if I can get Muenster on a Big Mac?

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