American Icon and Singer-Songwriter Jimmy Buffett Dead at 76

Alex H. Krinsky on September 2, 2023
American Icon and Singer-Songwriter Jimmy Buffett Dead at 76

American singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, celebrated for his iconic hit “Margaritaville,” has passed away at the age of 76, according to an official statement. The statement revealed that Buffett, renowned for living life in harmony with the spirit of his songs, peacefully departed in his sleep.

A message posted on his X account, formerly known as Twitter, conveyed the sad news: “Jimmy passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, friends, music, and beloved dogs. He embraced every moment of his existence like a timeless melody, leaving an irreplaceable void felt deeply by countless admirers.” The statement was also shared on Buffett’s official website.

Buffett’s musical journey was marked by his influence in popularizing beach bum soft rock, a genre that transformed the celebration of leisure into a thriving domain of restaurants, resorts, and signature frozen libations.

Born on Christmas Day in 1946 in Pascagoula, Miss., and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Buffett’s humble beginnings led to a remarkable rise. He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg and transitioned from busking on the streets of New Orleans to performing six nights a week at Bourbon Street venues.

In 1970, he launched his career with the release of his debut album, Down To Earth. Buffett’s musical journey included over 50 studio and live albums, often featuring his Coral Reefer Band, and an unceasing tour schedule. His accomplishments encompassed two Grammy award nominations, two Academy of Country Music awards, and a Country Music Association award.

Notably, “Margaritaville,” his seminal hit from 1977, portrayed a leisurely tableau of a loafer observing tourists while a pot of shrimp simmered—a composition that resonated as a coastal anthem. This song inspired a devoted following known as Parrotheads, who reveled in the spirit of carefree living.

In 2021, Spin magazine remarked on the song’s unexpected depth: “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.”

“Margaritaville,” part of the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, spent 22 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 8. Its enduring cultural and historical significance led to its induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016. The song became a karaoke classic and helped establish Key West, Fla., as a globally recognized destination for music enthusiasts.

Buffett’s imaginative creation of “Margaritaville” transcended music, inspiring a flourishing chain of restaurants and resorts that transformed his yearning for island simplicity into a multimillion-dollar brand. In 2016, he secured the 13th spot on Forbes’s America’s Richest Celebrities list, with a net worth of $550 million.

Buffett’s influence extended further into the realm of film, writing music for the movies Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Urban Cowboy. He appeared in movies, as well including Rancho Deluxe and Jurassic World, and on television shows – Five-O revival of the 2010s, on which he portrayed Frank Bama, a helicopter pilot from his best-selling 1992 novel, Where Is Joe Merchant?

Buffett was a man of the skies in his real life, often flying himself to his own shows. In ’94 he crashed one of his airplanes near Nantucket, Mass., shortly after taking off and same to the shore with minor injuries. Two years later, in ’96, his plane was shot at by Jamaican police who suspected the craft of smuggling marijuana in a case of mistaken identity which led to Buffet writing “Jamaica Mistaica.”

He 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.