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The Meaning Behind The Song: The Devil I Know by Jimmy Buffett

The Meaning Behind The Song: The Devil I Know by Jimmy Buffett


When it comes to storytelling through music, few artists can capture the essence of life’s adventures quite like Jimmy Buffett. A master of creating vivid narratives, Buffett takes his listeners on a journey with his song “The Devil I Know.” Released as part of his album “Life on the Flip Side” in 2020, this song delves into the experiences of a life well-lived, filled with wild tales and unexpected encounters. As a long-time fan of Buffett, this song resonates deeply with me and evokes memories of my own adventures.

Verse 1

The lyrics of the song begin by painting a scene of unexpected encounters in the wee hours of the morning. Buffett finds himself surrounded by old buccaneers sharing exaggerated stories and toasting to his victories. Despite his attempts to tame his wild past, the allure of adventure continues to call him. This verse reflects on how our past and the people we encounter can shape our present and influence our decisions.


The chorus captures the thrill of waking up in a new and unfamiliar place, after romping through the streets of Paris and driving around in a Deux Chevaux. Buffett acknowledges that he may not be alone in his escapades, as his wingman has swapped places with the devil he knows. It emphasizes the unique bond and camaraderie formed through shared experiences and adventures.

Verse 2

Life can often be confusing, and excuses are sometimes necessary to navigate the twists and turns it throws our way. Buffett compares his tendency to spin tales to a Richter scale, alluding to the seismic impact of his stories. It acknowledges the consequences of living life to the fullest, occasionally landing in trouble or needing to apologize. Sinkin’ spells, as he calls them, are the inevitable lows that follow the highs of an adventurous existence.


The second chorus highlights the excitement and danger associated with navigating life’s uncertainties. The undertow represents the challenges and temptations that can sway our decisions or drag us down. Buffett refers to deviants and derelicts, individuals lurking high and low, reminding us of the diverse cast of characters we encounter on our own journeys. The devil he knows becomes a metaphor for the thrill-seeking aspects of life.


The bridge takes us through a nostalgic tour of various locations where Buffett has found himself throughout his adventures. From the Anchor Inn to the Suez Canal bar, from the Kraken to Manhattan, and from Le Select to Havana, these places evoke a sense of wanderlust and an appreciation for the diverse experiences life offers. These moments and locations add depth to the overall narrative of the song and amplify its universal appeal.

Verse 3

In the final verse, Buffett sets the scene at three in the morning, with feral cats yawning and a full moon sinking in the bay. As he sips his café au lait, he contemplates a day of day drinking and being his authentic self. It showcases the freedom and liberation that can come from embracing spontaneity and letting go of societal expectations. The power of simple pleasures, like enjoying a refreshing iced tea, is highlighted.


The last chorus celebrates the joy of fishing during a slack tide, awakening to a life lived on the flip side. While the dragons of the devil he knows still linger, they fade like old tattoos. Buffett emphasizes that there is a sense of mystery and fondness in the history of the devils he has encountered. By embracing these experiences, he has cultivated a life rich in stories and memories.

In conclusion, “The Devil I Know” by Jimmy Buffett is both a reflection on the past and an ode to a life fully lived. Through its vibrant storytelling and captivating lyrics, the song invites us to reflect on our own adventures, encounters, and the meaning we find in them. Whether you’re a fan of Buffett’s music or not, this song serves as a reminder to embrace the unknown, lean into spontaneity, and celebrate the wild journey that is life.

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