NEW YORK — The singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffettwho popularized the soft beach rock with the Caribbean-flavored song “Margaritaville” and turned that celebration of laziness into a billion-dollar empire of restaurants, resorts and frozen concoctions, has died. He was 76 years old.
“Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1 surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs,” indicated a statement published on Buffett’s official website and on his social networks on Friday night. “He lived his life like a song until his last breath and will be missed beyond measure by many.”
There was no indication of where Buffett died or the cause of death. An illness forced him to reschedule concerts in May, and Buffett acknowledged in social media posts that he had been hospitalized, but did not provide details.
“Margaritaville”, released on February 14, 1977, it quickly took on a life of its own, becoming a state of mind for those “getting wasted,” an excuse for a life of low-key fun and escapism for those “growing older, but not old.”
The song is a leisurely portrait of a lazy man watching tourists sunbathe while a pot of shrimp begins to boil.
The song, from the album “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” spent 22 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and peaked at No. 8. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016 for its cultural significance. and historical. It became a karaoke standard and helped mark Key West, Florida, as a distinctive musical sound and a destination known around the world.
“There was no place like Margaritaville,” Buffett told the Arizona Republic in 2021. “It was a made-up place in my mind, basically made up by my experiences in Key West and having to leave Key West and continue traveling. Go to work and then come back and spend time at the beach.”
The song soon inspired restaurants and resorts, turning Buffett’s supposed desire for the simplicity of island life into a multimillion-dollar brand. She came in at number 18 on Forbes’ list of the richest celebrities of all time, with a net worth of billion dollars.
Buffett’s “music brought happiness to millions of people. “I will always be grateful for his kindness, generosity, and great performances over the years,” former President Bill Clinton wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Music critics were never very kind to Buffett or his catalog, including beachside sand bar songs like “Fins,” “Come Monday” and “Cheeseburgers in Paradise.” But his legions of fans, called “Parrotheads,” regularly came to his concerts wearing toy parrots, cheeseburgers, sharks and flamingos on their heads, necklaces around their necks and flashy Hawaiian shirts.
“It’s pure escapism, that’s all,” he told the Republic. “I’m not the first to do it, nor will I probably be the last. But I think it’s really part of the human condition that you have to have fun. You need to step away from anything you do for a living or other parts of life that stress you out. I try to make working at least 50/50 fun and so far it has worked.”
Their special blend of country, pop, folk and Gulf Coast rock added instruments and tonalities more commonly found in the Caribbean, such as steel drums.
Tributes on Saturday came from all walks of life, from Hollywood star Miles Teller who posted photos of himself with Buffett to former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, who wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Buffett “lived the life to the fullest and the world I will miss.” Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys wrote: “Love and mercy, Jimmy Buffett.”
The evolution of the Buffett brand began in 1985 with the opening of a series of Margaritaville-themed stores and restaurants in Key West, followed in 1987 with the first Margaritaville Cafe nearby. Over the course of the next two decades, several more of each opened in Florida, New Orleans, and California.
The brand has since expanded into dozens of categories, including resorts, men’s and women’s clothing and footwear, a radio station, a beer, iced tea, tequila and rum brand, home decor, foods such as salad dressings , Margaritaville Crunchy Pimento Cheese & Shrimp Bites and Margaritaville Cantina Style Medium Chunky Salsa, Margaritaville at Sea cruise line and restaurants including Margaritaville Restaurant, JWB Prime Steak and Seafood, 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill and LandShark Bar & Grill.
James William Buffett was born on Christmas Day 1946 in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and raised in the port city of Mobile, Alabama. He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and went from busking on the streets of New Orleans to playing six nights a week in Bourbon Street clubs.
He had over 50 studio and live albums, often accompanied by his Coral Reefer Band, and was constantly on tour. He earned two Grammy Award nominations, two Academy of Country Music Awards and a Country Music Association Award.
Buffett was actually in Austin, Texas, when the inspiration for “Margaritaville” struck. He and a friend had stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant before she dropped him off at the airport to catch her flight back to Key West, so they settled down to drink margaritas.
“And I got the idea that this is like Margarita-ville,” Buffett told the Republic. “She laughed at that and put me on the plane. And I started working on it.”
He wrote some of the lines on the plane and finished them while driving through the Keys. “There was an accident on the bridge,” he said. “And they detained us for about an hour, so I finished the song on the Seven Mile Bridge, which I thought was appropriate.”
Buffett was also the author of numerous books, including “Where’s Joe Merchant?” and “A Pirate Looks at Fifty” and added films to his resume as co-producer and co-star of an adaptation of Carl Hiaasen’s novel “Hoot.”
Buffett is survived by his wife, Jane; daughters, Savannah and Sarah; and his son, Cameron.