Buffett recorded “Bubbles Up,” which will appear on the upcoming Equal Strain on All Parts, shortly before his death
Sep 10, 2023
Although he’d been coping with health issues during the last few years of his life, Jimmy Buffett remained productive, working on his first record of new music since 2020. That album, Equal Strain on All Parts, due Nov. 3, was completed shortly before his death of skin cancer at 76 on Sept. 1. Three new songs will preview the record: “Bubbles Up,” “My Gummie Just Kicked In,” and “Like My Dog.”
“Bubbles Up,” the first song to be unveiled, is a reflective ballad that, like later Buffett songs such as “Tides,” reveals a deeper side to his music. The tune takes its name from how sailors can follow the bubbles up to the water’s surface to escape drowning if a boat capsizes. Buffett co-wrote the song with Americana singer, songwriter, and guitarist Will Kimbrough. With a melody that recalls a country hymnal, it offers a reassuring message about finding direction in life and a chorus that takes on new meaning given Buffett’s passing: “Just know that you are loved, there is light up above, and joy, there’s always enough.”
Equal Strain on All Parts features guest appearances by Paul McCartney, Emmylou Harris (on a version of Bob Dylan’s “Mozambique,” which Harris originally sang on), Angélique Kidjo, and the Preservation Hall Jazz band. Michael Utley and Mac McAnally of Buffett’s band, the Coral Reefers, produced the record. After Buffett’s death, another friend, James Taylor, dedicated a version of “Mexico” to him during Taylor’s show at the Jones Beach Theater on Long Island.
But it’s the former Beatle who was so moved by “Bubbles Up” that he wrote about it online in a tribute to Buffett. “I told him that not only was the song great but the vocal was probably the best I’ve heard him sing ever,” McCartney wrote. “He turned a diving phrase that is used to train people underwater into a metaphor for life when you’re confused and don’t know where you are just follow the bubbles — they’ll take you up to the surface and straighten you out right away.”
According to Buffett’s camp, the inspiration for another new song, the rowdy stoner anthem, “My Gummie Just Kicked In,” arrived during a dinner with Buffett, his wife Jane, and McCartney and his wife, Nancy Shevell. When Shevell “stumbled on her way to the dinner table,” a concerned Buffett asked her if she was okay, to which she replied, “Oh, no — I’m fine. My gummie just kicked in.”
“If someone made an interesting remark, he repeated it in his gorgeous Louisiana drawl and said, ‘That’s a good idea for a song,’” McCartney wrote in an online tribute to Buffett. “Most times it didn’t take too long for that song to appear.” Such was the case here, and McCartney himself wound up playing bass on the track during what he called “a fun session.”
In a 2020 interview with Rolling Stone, Buffett revealed how he wanted to be remembered. “I’d say, ‘He had a good time and made a lot of people happy’ would be good,” he said. “Yeah, that’d be good.” Adhering to that tradition, the title of Buffett’s album, from his own Mailboat Records label in conjunction with the legendary Sun Records, refers to how his grandfather would describe “a good nap.”
From Rolling Stone US.