It's easy to get jaded about a city like Miami, with its exasperating rush-hour traffic jams, bougie tourist traps, and questionable characters. Like most major metropolitan cities, the Magic City is full of residents who love to hate the town they call home. But it's like family. Only we can trash-talk our own.
So when Hurricane Irma threatened to devastate South Florida with destruction unseen since Hurricane Andrew, Miamians banded together to ensure a speedy recovery.
Miami rock royalty Charlie Pickett was in the middle of recording his long-awaited new album when Irma began churning toward Florida after flooding Cuba and making the Virgin Islands nearly uninhabitable. Pickett had recorded his song "What I Like About Miami" for his forthcoming album more than a year ago, but he made the decision to release the song as a charity single as the storm approached.
"The [idea] to release it with a purpose struck me right about the time that we were looking at a Category 5 coming up U.S. 1," says Pickett, who quickly ran the idea by his collaborator, R.E.M.'s Peter Buck. "He said, 'Absolutely, sure.' It came together real quickly 'cause everyone was concerned, and it was a good purpose."
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The song is a Rolling Stones-inspired, beer-soaked jaunt that celebrates the Cuban girls, the eternal sunshine, and the gritty side of Miami. "Now you go on out to South Beach/You never, ever see the day," he sings, prompting flashbacks of some wild nights on Collins. "We stay out to 2 a.m. at Churchill's Hideaway."
Like most Miamians, Pickett got lucky during Irma. "We lost a tree, but... [the hurricane] swung so far to the west that all it did was make for an exciting evening." Did he play guitar after the power went out? "I have an acoustic guitar, and, yes, I did."
Those in Southwest Florida and especially the Keys were not as fortunate. "What I Like About Miami" is available now for purchase on Bandcamp. All proceeds will go toward Direct Relief's Hurricane Irma response.
"It's just a way in which somebody can help and buy something that they like," he says. In addition to giving listeners a chance to make a charitable contribution to hurricane relief efforts, Pickett says, "There's something here that people will enjoy. It's a celebration of Miami. It's a celebration of South Florida."