Jimmy Buffett was finishing his encore of 1977’s “Lovely Cruise” at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion in 2011 when he went to shake hands with some fans – and tumbled off the stage. “I’d had one glass of rosé at halftime,” he says. “I wasn’t even drunk. I got a little disoriented and next thing I knew, I woke up in the pit covered with blood, going, ‘What happened?'”
Buffett spent a day in intensive care before laying low for half a year. “It scared the shit out of me,” he says, calling from his sailboat on Long Island Sound between summer tour dates. But did it change his outlook on life? “Nah,” he says. “I’ve dodged a few bullets, between plane crashes and being shot at in Jamaica [in 1996], so I’m on borrowed time anyway. I’m not gonna change much about what I’m doing in life at this point.”
Including his music: His new Songs From St. Somewhere, recorded over the past five years in studios from Key West, Fla., to Nashville, is packed with vintage lounge-y grooves. Highlights include the booze-and-beach jams “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Boat,” “Einstein Was a Surfer” and the undeniably catchy lead single, “Too Drunk to Karaoke,” a high-energy duet with Toby Keith. “There were some things in my checkered past that were [what] I would call research for this song,” says Buffett. So when was the last time he was too drunk to sing karaoke? “Nantucket, about five years ago,” he says. “It was my own song! I couldn’t remember the words!”
He dives deeper on tracks like the emotional Leonard Cohen-style ballad “Soulfully” and the roadhouse rocker “Useless but Important Information,” on which he rails against Twitter and the news media, howling, “Breakin’ news, world’s in the shitter.” “I don’t know how Nancy Grace will feel,” Buffett says with a laugh, “but I don’t care.”
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At 66, Buffett is still packing stadiums, while also overseeing an empire that ranges from two restaurant chains to Landshark Lager. “I’m competitive more than driven,” he says. “I think you have to be.”
This story is from the August 29th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.