Jimmy Buffett, The Iconic Troubadour of Tropical Getaways, Dead Away at Age 76

Through hits such as “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” he achieved folk-hero status among his devoted fanbase, affectionately known as Parrot Heads. Along the way, he amassed wealth far beyond imagination, becoming a millionaire countless times over.

The image of Jimmy Buffett in 1977 captures his embrace of the Caribbean and Key West, Florida, where he crafted songs featuring characters from beachside communities and tavern regulars. [Image source: Chris Walter/WireImage, via Getty Images]

Jimmy Buffett, a well-known musician with hits like “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” was a well-known singer, songwriter, author, sailor, and businessman. He died at the age of 76.Thanks to his unique brand of island escapism, he became a modern folk hero, especially adored by his devoted following known as Parrot Heads. This horrible incident happened on a Friday.
His passing was announced via an official statement on his website, but neither the location of his passing nor any specifics regarding the cause were provided. It’s worth noting that earlier in the spring, Mr. Buffett had rescheduled a series of concerts, citing a hospitalization, though he did not offer any further information at that time.

Filled with characters like pirates, smugglers, beach enthusiasts, and regular bar patrons, Mr.Buffett’s amiable and self-deprecating tunes created a vivid universe filled with sunshine, sea breezes, and ceaseless festivities, all animated by the lively calypso country-rock melodies of his versatile Coral Reefer Band.His live shows were filled to the brim with infectious anthems and vivacious tropical imagery, solidifying his status as a constant favourite on the summer concert circuit and cultivating a devoted fan base that matched the fervour of the Grateful Dead’s devoted Deadheads.

Mr. Buffett achieved his greatest success through his albums. While he had limited presence on the pop singles chart, his 1977 breakthrough hit, “Margaritaville,” was the sole single that reached the top 10 on the pop charts.
He said woozily to the song’s lilting Caribbean rhythms, ‘I blew out my flip-flop/Stepped on a pop-top/Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home’. But the alcohol in the blender will eventually turn into the frozen concoction that keeps me hanging on.

Mr. Buffett’s music was often labeled as “Gulf and western,” a clever nod to the Gulf & Western conglomerate (formerly the parent company of Paramount Pictures) and a reflection of his unique blend of laid-back country twang with island-inspired lyrics.

His songs typically fell into two main categories: poignant ballads like “Come Monday” and “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” and clever, up-tempo tracks such as “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” Some songs managed to encompass both styles, like “Son of a Son of a Sailor,” a 1978 tribute to Mr. Buffett’s seafaring grandfather, co-written with producer Norbert Putnam.

In the lyrics, he sang, “I’m just a son of a son, son of a son / Son of a son of a sailor. / The sea’s in my veins, my tradition remains / I’m just glad I don’t live in a trailer.”

The Caribbean and the Gulf Coast served as Mr. Buffett’s primary sources of inspiration, with Key West, Florida, holding a special place in his heart. He first discovered the island at the encouragement of Jerry Jeff Walker, his occasional songwriting and drinking companion, after a Miami gig fell through in the early 1970s.

Reflecting on his connection to the region, Mr. Buffett remarked in a 1989 interview with The Washington Post, “When I found Key West and the Caribbean, I wasn’t really successful yet, but I found a lifestyle, and I knew that whatever I did would have to work around my lifestyle.

Jimmy Buffett, the singer-songwriter known for “Margaritaville,” entertained audiences in Gulf Shores, Alabama, on June 30, 2010. He has passed away at the age of 76.

These destinations didn’t just provide Mr. Buffett with the inspiration for his breezy sailing life and songwriting; they also served as the foundation for his thriving tropical-themed business empire. This empire encompassed a restaurant franchise, a hotel chain, and boutique lines of tequila, T-shirts, and footwear. These ventures collectively propelled him into the realm of being a millionaire many times over.

In one of his songs, “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” Mr. Buffett sang of his earlier days engaged in marijuana trafficking in the Florida Keys, saying, “I’ve done a bit of smugglin’, and I’ve run my share of grass.” He humorously added, “I made enough money to buy Miami,” alluding to his subsequent entrepreneurial endeavors, before lamenting how he had spent it rapidly, suggesting it was never meant to last.

Despite his claims of financial recklessness, Mr. Buffett demonstrated astute management of his substantial wealth, with Forbes estimating his net worth at $1 billion in the recent year. As noted by critic Anthony DeCurtis in a 1999 essay for The New York Times, Mr. Buffett’s pirate-like persona was not due to his earlier associations with Caribbean smugglers but rather his rebellious and visionary approach to business, similar to figures like Bill Gates and Donald Trump, even though he was aligned with the Democratic party.

Additionally, Mr. Buffett excelled as an author, joining the ranks of only six writers, including literary giants like Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and William Styron, who achieved the distinction of topping both The New York Times fiction and nonfiction best-seller lists. By the time he penned “Tales From Margaritaville” in 1989, his first of three No. 1 best-sellers, he had left behind the hedonistic lifestyle he once embraced.

Reflecting on his transformation, he shared with The Washington Post in 1989, “I could wind up like a lot of my friends did, burned out or dead, or redirect the energy. I’m not old, but I’m getting older. That period of my life is over. It was fun—all that hard drinking, hard drugging. No apologies. I still have a very happy life. I just don’t do the things I used to do.”

Mr. Buffett during a live performance in Mountain View, California, in 1991. His chart-topping sensation “Margaritaville” propelled him to stardom in 1977.

James William Buffett was born on December 25, 1946, in Pascagoula, Mississippi, one of three children born to Mary Loraine (Peets) and James Delaney Buffett Jr. Both of his parents had long careers at the Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding Company, where his father managed government contracts, and his mother, known as Peets, worked as an assistant director of industrial relations.

Growing up, Jimmy was raised in the Roman Catholic faith in Mobile, Alabama, where he developed a passion for the trombone during his time at St. Ignatius Catholic School. He continued his education at another Catholic institution, the McGill Institute, for high school.

In 1964, he began his college journey at Auburn University but faced academic challenges and eventually left. Later, he attended the University of Southern Mississippi. During this period, he started performing in local nightclubs. He eventually earned a degree in history in 1969. After graduating, he made his way to the French Quarter of New Orleans, where he played in a cover band on Bourbon Street.

In 1970, Jimmy relocated to Nashville, aspiring to establish himself as a country singer while simultaneously working as a journalist for Billboard magazine. (Mr. Buffett is even credited with breaking the story about the disbanding of the pioneering bluegrass duo Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.) His debut album, “Down to Earth,” was released on Andy Williams’s Barnaby label in the same year, although it reportedly sold only 324 copies.

His second album for Barnaby, “High Cumberland Jubilee,” remained unreleased until 1976, long after he had signed with ABC-Dunhill and recorded “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean,” released in 1973. This album featured the lively party anthem “Why Don’t We Get Drunk.”

Mr. Buffett had a penchant for wordplay and puns, as evident in the title of his albums. “A White Sport Coat” was inspired by the 1957 pop hit “A White Sport Coat (and a Pink Carnation)” by country singer Marty Robbins. Another example of his wordplay was the album titled “Last Mango in Paris.”

In 1974, Mr. Buffett’s album “Living and Dying in ¾ Time” featured his rendition of comedian Lord Buckley’s “God’s Own Drunk.” From the same record, the melancholic track “Come Monday” marked his debut appearance in the Top 40 charts.

The album “A1A,” also from 1974, took its name from the oceanfront highway tracing Florida’s Atlantic coastline. This album marked Mr. Buffett’s initial foray into incorporating references to Key West and the maritime lifestyle. However, it was “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” (1977), which went platinum and featured the mega-hit “Margaritaville,” that truly launched him into stardom. Another hit single, “Fins,” was released in 1979.

Following these successes, a series of popular albums ensued, culminating in 1985 with “Songs You Know by Heart,” a compilation of Mr. Buffett’s most beloved songs up to that point, ultimately becoming the best-selling album of his career.

In 1985, Mr. Buffett also ventured into the world of retail by opening the first of his many Margaritaville stores. It was during this year that Timothy B. Schmit, formerly the bassist with the Eagles and then a member of the Coral Reefer Band, coined the term “Parrot Heads” to describe Mr. Buffett’s devoted legion of fans, primarily comprised of baby boomers.

A strong advocate for conservationist causes, Mr. Buffett made a move away from the Florida Keys in the late 1970s due to the region’s increasing commercialization. He initially relocated to Aspen, Colorado, before establishing his residence on St. Barts in the Caribbean. Additionally, he owned properties in Palm Beach, Florida, and Sag Harbor on eastern Long Island.

Beyond his extensive touring and recording endeavors, which he continued into the 2020s, Mr. Buffett also lent his musical talents to movies such as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Urban Cowboy.” He also made appearances in films like “Rancho Deluxe” and “Jurassic World,” as well as on television shows, including a role as the helicopter pilot Frank Bama in the 2010s revival of “Hawaii Five-O.” The character Frank Bama originated from his best-selling novel, “Where Is Joe Merchant?” published in 1992.and last video of official instagran handel.

An ardent aviator, Mr. Buffett possessed multiple aircraft and frequently piloted himself to his performances. In 1994, he experienced a plane crash while taking off in waters near Nantucket, Massachusetts. Remarkably, he survived the incident by swimming to safety, sustaining only minor injuries.

In 1996, another of Mr. Buffett’s planes, named Hemisphere Dancer, encountered a rather peculiar episode. It was fired upon by Jamaican police, who suspected the aircraft of being involved in drug smuggling. Onboard the plane, which suffered minimal damage, were notable passengers including Bono of U2, Chris Blackwell (the founder of Island Records), Mr. Buffett’s wife, and two daughters. The Jamaican authorities later acknowledged that this incident was a case of mistaken identity, inspiring Mr. Buffett to compose the song “Jamaica Mistaica,” a humorous commentary on the affair.

Mr. Buffett is survived by his wife, Jane (Slagsvol) Buffett; two daughters, Savanah Jane Buffett and Sarah Buffett; a son, Cameron; two grandsons; and two sisters, Lucy and Laurie Buffett.

In a 1979 interview with Rolling Stone, Mr. Buffett was asked about an earlier statement in which he somewhat paradoxically mentioned the wholesome choral director Mitch Miller and the Gulf Coast pirate Jean Lafitte as two of his greatest inspirations.

Regarding Mitch Miller, Mr. Buffett acknowledged the way his fans enthusiastically sang along with him at concerts, saying, “Mitch Miller, for sure. In the old days: ‘Sing Along with Mitch’? Who didn’t?”

As for Jean Lafitte, he explained, “But Jean Lafitte was my hero as a romantic character. I’m not sure he was a musical influence. His lifestyle influenced me, most definitely, ’cause I’m the very opposite of Mitch Miller.”

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