Cheeseburger in Paradise

photo source: D. Suzuki

photo source: D. Suzuki

What do Hawaiian shirts and palm trees have to do with cheeseburgers? A student of mine recently asked me this question after attending the Cheeseburger Festival in Caseville, Michigan. While he and his wife enjoyed the tasty cheeseburgers, they couldn't help but wonder about the connection.

The cultural answer is simple: Jimmy Buffet!

Who is Jimmy Buffet, you ask?  He is a multi-generational inspiration for Americans who like easy-listening music and the laid-back lifestyle.  With a tropical theme, he and his Coral Reefer Band sing about beaches, rum drinks, love, and life.  Their devoted fans attend his concerts wearing Hawaiian shirts, sunglasses, and tropical hats--some of them decorated with parrots. For this reason, his fans are often called Parrotheads.


The song, Cheeseburger in Paradise, has inspired a restaurant chain by that name.  You can read the lyrics below while listening to the song.  If you're not in a tropical climate, turn on your sun lamp, pour a margarita, and click on the link to the song. (Difficult words* are explained below.)

Cheeseburger In Paradise by Jimmy Buffet

Tried to amend* my carnivorous* habits. Made it* nearly seventy days, Losin' weight without speed,* eatin' sunflower seeds, Drinkin' lots of carrot juice, and soakin' up rays.* But at night I'd have these wonderful dreams Some kind of sensuous* treat. Not zucchini, fettuccini, or bulgur wheat,* But a big warm bun and a huge hunk* of meat.

Cheeseburger in paradise. Heaven on earth with an onion slice. Not too particular, not too precise. I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise.


Heard about the old time sailor men, They eat the same thing again and again; Warm beer and bread they say could raise the dead.* Well, it reminds me of the menu at a Holiday Inn. But times have changed for sailors these days. When I'm in port* I get what I need. Not just Havanas* or bananas or daiquiris,* But that American creation on which I feed!

Cheeseburger in paradise. Medium rare* with Muenster'd* be nice. Not too particular, not too precise, I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise.

A margarita is another tropical drink that Jimmy Buffet sings about.

A margarita is another tropical drink that Jimmy Buffet sings about.

I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57,* and french fried potatoes, Big kosher pickle,* and a cold draught beer.* Well, good god Almighty,* which way do I steer* For a cheeseburger in paradise? Makin' the best of every virtue and vice.* Worth every damn* bit of sacrifice To get a cheeseburger in paradise, To be a cheeseburger in paradise. I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise.




amend = change

carnivorous = meat-eating

made it = lived, survived

speed = illegal energy drug

soaking up rays = getting a sun tan

sensuous = feeling good, a little sexy

zucchini, fettuccini, bulgur wheat = healthy foods

hunk = big piece [too much red meat is unhealthy]

could raise the dead = [it was so terrible that it could] bring dead people back alive

in port = in dock, in the harbor (not on the sea)

Havanas = Cuban cigars

daiquiri = a sweet/sour rum beverage

medium rare = meat cooked outside but red inside

Muenster'd = Muenster cheese would (be nice)

Heinz 57 = an American ketchup brand

kosher pickle = dill pickle made with garlic and salt

draught beer = poured from the tap [pronounced “draft”]

steer = go, direct myself

virtue and vice = good quality and bad quality

damn = darn [strong word used for emphasis]

Showing off their new cheeseburger hats in the paradise town of Caseville, Michigan (photo: D. Suzuki)

Showing off their new cheeseburger hats in the paradise town of Caseville, Michigan (photo: D. Suzuki)

Alan Headbloom

Alan advises Americans how to be global citizens and expats how to fit in to Michigan culture without annoying their native coworkers and clients. He also tweets and blogs at the intersection of language and culture. Over decades, he's traveled, studied, or lived on six continents, putting strange foods into his mouth and emitting strange sounds from it. His use of English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Swedish, Hausa, and Japanese all improve with alcohol use. He gives invited public presentations on culture and unsolicited private advice on English grammar and usage; the latter isn't always appreciated. Visit his website for information on consulting, coaching, or speaking engagements.