A Pirate Looks at Forty

Album: A-1-A (1974)
Charted: 101


  • Buffett was only 27 when this song was released, but it's not about him. He wrote it about Phil Clark, one of the more colorful characters he met when he first came to Key West, Florida, in the early '70s. Clark was a modern-day pirate, described in various accounts as a smuggler, a mercenary, a drug runner and an adventurer. Buffett got to know him, and wrote this song based on their conversations. Clark was approaching 40 and wasn't sure his profession would be around much longer.
  • Phil Clark's bar of choice in Key West was the Full Moon Saloon. When he died (his body washed up on a beach in Sausalito, California), some of his ashes were brought to the saloon, where they stayed above the cash register until it closed in 1993.
  • This is one of Buffett's most popular and enduring songs, played at all of his full concerts. Many listeners assumed it was about Buffett himself, as he has many swashbuckling tales to tell. It resonates with anyone getting older and wondering if a change is in order.
  • A Pirate Looks at Fifty is the name of Jimmy Buffett's autobiography. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Julian - Oakland, AR
  • Jimmy Buffett started out singing country songs in Alabama. After hitting the Florida Keys he developed a laid-back "Parrot Head" style that sent his career up to the superstar status he came to enjoy. Around the time of this song, he was building his following, able to boast of filling the Altamonte Springs Jai Alai Fronton with about 800 fans. A couple of years later, he could gather 2 or 3 thousand drunken rebels to the F.I.T. soccer field in Melbourne Florida. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    James - Rochester, NY
  • This was included on the soundtrack to the 2019 stoner comedy The Beach Bum, starring Matthew McConaughey and featuring Jimmy Buffett as himself.

Comments: 20

  • Christina from FloridaThe song was definitely written about Phil Clark who was a bartender in his later years. I worked with him the Bagatelle restaurant when I was a waitress. He was a great guy but sometimes tough to get orders from him since the service window for the waiters was at the back of the bar and the far right. He was deaf in his right ear!
  • Bill from UsI knew a guy in a cover band that bragged that they would do no Buffet songs. Said they were all corny or whatever. I then reminded him of this song. And he had to admit, yeah, that's a dam good song!
    I'm not a pirate, but anyone older in life can relate to this song. And the tune by itself is very touching. Come on.
  • Steve from Enumclaw, WahingtonAs a nostalgic 80 year old fan for over 40 years, his music keeps my spirit young. Always wanted to get to Key West. Looks like I won't make it. My loss, no visit to the Full Moon (closed anyway). Still sit on my deck sippin that frozen concoction blending his music with some Eddy Raven "old joe knows how to live" and the Bellamy Brothers "old hippie"... Thanking Jimmy as I take another bite of this Cheeseburger, here at the base of Mt Rainier and dreamin' of some beach time in Florida. Ah well maybe come Monday.
  • Johnhardesty from Bardstown, KentuckyAny of you sulking Achilles haters, can suck it, Jimmy Buffett stands upon the test of time, bereft by Awards yes, but he has something you'll never posses, and that's memories of a lifetime, and whom lived by his principles and free will, and has that following you haters will never have, but what you will have is disappointment in yourselves! Love Jimmy Buffet, "A Pirate Looks at Forty," will be my eulogy song!
  • Angela from Blue Spring, MoElijah, from Columbus, you are absolutely right. I love Jimmy. I listen to Radio Margaritaville on Sirius every day. On the live version, he says that he wrote it about that bartender in the Keys. The Chart Room Bar in Key West, at the Pier House is where the bartender worked according to the locals. It's where Jimmy got his start. It's one of my favorites of his.
  • Michael from Dayton, OhClovis, if all his fans are in south Florida, how come he has been selling out 5 shows for every tour in the last 20+ years in Cincinnati?
  • Cara from Mansfield, MaTo Joann from East Greenbush NY...
    If your Dad was Phil Clark ... then YES the song was written about him. If not ... then it wasn't.
  • Brian from Boston, MaDude Buffett is awsome.What's wrong with just having fun when listening to music.Sometimes people think music has to be about deep or dark subjects.I would rather listen to Jimmy singing about the Carribean beach lifestyle than some miserable heroin addict telling us how s--tty life is.Buffett is a good songwriter. He writes his own songs,plays guitar and sings well.Anyone that thinks his music is shallow or meaningless fluff doesn't know what they are talking about.Buffett sings of the life he knows he never tries to be anything he is not.
  • Joann from East Greenbush, NyI Was told by my father, this song was written about my dads life he and Jimmy Buffet were friends in the 60's and 70's. I would appreciate if anyone had any more specific information about the song.
  • Tommy from Ft.lauderdale, FlAnyone who says
    Anything negative about jimmy can kiss my perfectly tanned ass this man is a god in my book and I will continue to lay on the beach and get drunk and listen to his music and good luck trying to stop me
  • Sunshine from Somewhere, RiJust met a guy who says he wrote this with J.B. Everything else he told us checked out - some pretty unbelieveable stuff too. Hmmm. Seems to fit J's comment - except he's not dead. Wish I could find more info.
  • Clovis from Boca Raton, FlOutside of Florida, Jimmy Buffet is a one hit wonder from the 70's for "Margaritaville". For some reason South Florida, and especially they Keys, treat him like a hometown hero. I don't know why. I find him to be a mediocre songwriter at best. Every song of his has the same theme: Drinking and lying on the beach. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.
  • Thomas from Somerville, AlMy Brother turned me on to Buffett and to this song. We had both lived rather colorful lives to say the least and when we turned fourty, respectively, this song finally meant something. It is in my opinion, one of the best Buffett songs ever. To people like Rick, that obviously don't like Buffett, why are you posting on this page? He makes more money than you, has led a more enjoyable life than you, (if you have any life at all), and has seen places you only dream about. Jealousy is so sad.
  • Jon from Cookeville, TnWell Rick, It seems we have a Buffett Hater, well I would have to say that you are wrong, the man is obviously doing something right, he lives comfortably, did it all on his own and now lives a relaxed life. I guess thats not something you understand, im sure all of the songs in your collection (based on the way you talk, and your location) involve nothing but big talk about how much the writer knows about guns and trucks, and, skinning deer most of which is probably big talk, and thats it, all im saying i like country and southern rock too but open your eyes man, there is other kinds of music out there, and noone is geting on your FREE BIRD web site and talking bad about Lynrd Skynrd. cause we may like Buffett, but we like them too
  • J from Southodixie, FlActually this is a song about an old friend - who couldn't fit in with the rest of the world and turned to smuggling as a means of support. His remains were said to have been cremated and snorted by his friends before having the rest scattered at sea. Well the picture is fuzzy and the details are sorted.
  • Rick from Columbus, GaI'm sure Jimmy'd love to be a pirate taking that pirate sword up the rear, gumming on it with his toothless pirate mouth. He'd be a parrot head all right. Emphasis on head.
  • Ann from Fairway, KsTo any Jimmy Buffett haters out there: you gotta admit, this song stands the test of time. Makes me want to fly south for the winter! I love Jimmy Buffett. If you don't like him, you're just jealous!!!
  • Elijah from Columbus, OhMy father is a huge parrot head, and it's rubbed off on me.
    I don't know why people think this is autobiographical. Jimmy wrote this song about an old Bartender in Keywest while he was having a drink one night. The bartender and him start talking and the barkeep talks to him about his life.
    Supposebly, Jimmy wrote this as an ode to this 40-something he met back in the late 60's. (Hence the, "Seen you switch from sail to steam.)
    It was the story of a guy who has had up's and downs. It doesn't make much sense for Jimmy to write this about himself.
  • Steve E. from Des Moines, IaI have been listening to Jimmy Buffett since the early 70's. I am a true parrot head and have many of his recent albums.... heck I've even got a copy of "Melekalekemaka means Merry Christmas".... Bottom line is this song is one of the very best pieces he ever wrote.

    Signed .... An over forty victim of fate!
  • Melissa from Happy Place, KsThis song kinda makes me sad. I mean, Jimmy is perfect pirate material, but he's just arrived a few hundred years too late to fulfill that dream.
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