Mississippi-born musician Jimmy Buffett has died at the age of 76. He passed away peacefully after a four-year battle with Merkel cell skin cancer, an aggressive form of the disease. His best-known song “Margaritaville” captured the imaginations of listeners everywhere for its escapist lyrics. That same song created a dedicated fanbase of “Parrotheads” and sparked a chain of restaurants embodying the same beachy lifestyle.
“Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dogs,” an official statement states. “He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.”
Buffett began performing on the streets of New Orleans after graduating college. He later moved to Nashville, and immersed himself in the country music scene, before settling in Key West, Florida. There, he would find inspiration for his music like “Grapefruit—Juicy Fruit” and “Why Don’t We Get Drunk,” among many others.
In 1977, Buffett released the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, which featured “Margaritaville,” a song critiquing the tourism of Key West. It became an instant hit and ironically attracted more visitors to the area. “What seems like a simple ditty about getting blotto and mending a broken heart turns out to be a profound meditation on the often painful inertia of beach dwelling,” Spin magazine wrote in 2021. “Everything that means anything has already happened and you're not even sure when.” Buffett claimed to have written most of the lyrics to the song in just six minutes.
Many musicians and politicians expressed their condolences over Buffett's passing. “A poet of paradise, Jimmy Buffett was an American music icon who inspired generations to step back and find the joy in life and in one another,” President Joe Biden wrote. “We had the honor to meet and get to know Jimmy over the years, and he was in life as he was performing on stage—full of goodwill and joy, using his gift to bring people together.”
Buffett capitalized on the success of “Margaritaville” by launching a brand with the same name, which included everything from restaurants to cruises to beverages and spirits. In addition to his music and business ventures, Buffett was also a published author of titles Where is Joe Merchant and Pirate Looks at Fifty.
With his passing, Buffett leaves behind a legacy of timeless songs that will entertain audiences and Parrotheads for years to come.
Musician Jimmy Buffett passed away at the age of 76.
— Bob Seger (@BobSeger) September 2, 2023
He battled an aggressive form of skin cancer for four years and died surrounded by friends and family.
It seems that so many wonderful people are leaving this world, and now Jimmy Buffett is one of them. I’ve known Jimmy for some time and found him to be one of the kindest and most generous people.
I remember once on holiday when I had forgotten to bring my guitar and was… pic.twitter.com/k5B6xgpAh7
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) September 2, 2023
Buffett was best known for the song “Margaritaville” from the 1977 album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.
The pirate has passed. RIP Jimmy Buffett. Tremendous influence on so many of us -T pic.twitter.com/HpyDWYWPfE
— Toby Keith (@tobykeith) September 2, 2023
The lyrics of the song evoked a beachy lifestyle and a sense of escapism.
Just saw @jimmybuffett recently while recording with @EmmylouSongbird and @DollyParton. He was as he always was… a bright light! With a wonderful sense of humor and always so warm. I will miss knowing he is on the planet. He is up there sailing the bright blue Caribbean! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/a5otkrWRLg
— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow) September 2, 2023
Buffett later channeled the fame of the hit into a successful brand.
A poet of paradise, Jimmy Buffett was an American music icon who inspired generations to step back and find the joy in life and in one another.
We had the honor to meet and get to know Jimmy over the years, and he was in life as he was performing on stage – full of goodwill and…
— President Biden (@POTUS) September 2, 2023
He is survived by his wife and three children.
Jimmy Buffett’s music brought happiness to millions of people. I’ll always be grateful for his kindness, generosity, and great performances through the years, including at the White House in 2000. My thoughts are with his family, friends, and legion of devoted fans.
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) September 2, 2023