The Time the Music Died

Sep 6, 2023

The Day the Music Died was on February 3, 1959, when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” were killed in a plane crash, which Don McLean sings about in his iconic rock’n’roll dirge, “American Pie”.

But the time the music died?

Well, it was 5 o’clock somewhere.

Jimmy Buffett, the popular singer-songwriter of the anthems “Margaritaville”, “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, “Come Monday”, “Fins” and “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere” passed away on September 1st, at the unofficial end of summer, which somehow seems like a fitting memorial for a man who epitomized fun in the sun.

However, it is hard to escape the irony that this “Poet of Paradise” who preached about sun worship to the choir of his devoted fans called Parrotheads, developed an aggressive non-melanoma skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), which appears on UV-exposed skin.

MCC is a rare cancer with close to 3,000 US cases diagnosed per year predominately in an older white population. It is a neuroendocrine skin cancer, which tends to recur or metastasize in one-third to one-half of patients. A common virus called Merkel cell polyomavirus is responsible for 80% of cases, and extensive sun damage for the remaining 20%. MCC presents as a rapidly growing, firm, non-tender, shiny, flesh- or bluish-red colored nodule on sun-exposed skin, as shown in the images below.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma on the Lower Leg (Left) and on the Forehead (Right)

Jimmy Buffett reminded us throughout his life to kick back, relax, take one day at a time, and savor the sunshine.

His legacy is to leave us with one final reminder— wear sunscreen the next time you do it.