Jimmy Buffett, who sang of wastin' away in 'Margaritaville', dies at 76
Jimmy Buffett, whose Caribbean-flavored "Margaritaville" song popularized "beach bum soft rock" and inspired an entire industry devoted to celebrating laziness, has passed away. He was 76.
A statement issued late Friday night on Buffett's official website and social media accounts said, "Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dogs." He sang his life's melody till his final breath, and he will be sorely missed.
The statement only mentioned that Buffett had passed away, but did not specify where or how. Buffett said in social media posts that he had been hospitalized in May and that illness had forced him to cancel gigs. He did not elaborate.
After its first release on February 14, 1977, the concept of "Margaritaville" took on a life of its own, providing an excuse for a carefree lifestyle of "growing older, but not up" and "wastin' away."
The song paints a relaxed picture of a slacker relaxing on his porch, as he watches sunbathing tourists and starts boiling shrimp. The singer is sporting a fresh tattoo, perhaps nursing a hangover, and lamenting a past relationship. A salt shaker has gone missing from the kitchen.
For all its seeming simplicity, "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," as Spin magazine put it in 2021. "The tourists come and go, and it's impossible to tell one group apart from another. No one needs to be around for waves to rise and crash. Nothing new can happen since everything that matters has already occurred and you have no idea when.
The single from the album "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for a total of 22 weeks, reaching as high as the number eight spot. Because of its cultural and historical significance, the song was accepted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016, and it has since become a karaoke standard and contributed to establishing Key West, Florida, as a musically distinctive destination.
In 2021, Buffett informed the Arizona Republic, "There was no such place as Margaritaville." According to the author, "it was a made-up place in my mind, basically made up about my experiences in Key West and having to leave Key West and go on the road to work, and then come back and spend time by the beach."
Buffett's rumored yearning for the laid-back island lifestyle became a multimillion dollar brand thanks to the song's widespread appeal. With a net worth of $550 million, he ranked No. 13 on Forbes' list of America's Richest Celebrities in 2016.
The music press has never been nice to Buffett or his discography, which includes hits like "Fins," "Come Monday," and "Cheeseburgers in Paradise" from sand and beach snack bars. But his devoted following, known as "Parrotheads," routinely showed up to his shows decked out in loud Hawaiian shirts, leis around their necks, and plastic parrots, cheeseburgers, sharks, and flamingos perched on their heads.
"It's pure escapism, is all it is," he told the Republic. Nobody's ever done it before, and I doubt I ever will be the last. However, I believe that having a good time is essential to the human experience. You need time away from your stressful day job or other responsibilities. So far, my approach of making work fun at least half the time seems to be paying well.
His unique blend of Gulf Coast country, pop, folk, and rock included Caribbean-influenced instruments and tones, such as steel drums. An amalgamation of pedal steel guitar, trombones, and steel pans. Despite Buffett's amazing ear for melodies and light grooves, his lyrics about fish tacos and sunsets often took center stage.
Buffett's upcoming album, "Life on the Flip Side," received lukewarm praise in Rolling Stone's review. With the laid-back friendliness of a multimillionaire you wouldn't mind enjoying a tropically-themed 3 p.m. IPA with, especially if his gold card was on the bar when the last round came, he "continues mapping out his surfy, sandy corner of pop music utopia."
The first of Buffett's developing brand of Margaritaville-themed stores and restaurants opened in Key West in 1985; the first Margaritaville Café followed in 1987. Several more of each opened in Florida, New Orleans, and California during the next two decades.
Since then, the Margaritaville name has been seen on everything from resorts to clothing and shoes for both sexes to a radio station to a line of alcoholic beverages (including beer, ice tea, tequila, and rum), as well as a wide variety of other products (including salad dressing, a snack food called Margaritaville Crunchy Pimento Cheese & Shrimp Bites, and a salsa called Margaritaville Cantina Style Medium Chunk
Also, "Escape to Margaritaville," a jukebox musical headed for Broadway about a singer/bartender named Sully who falls for the significantly more career-minded Rachel while she and her pals are on vacation at the hotel bar where Sully works, is available.
James William Buffett was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi on December 25, 1946, and he grew up in Mobile, Alabama. After completing his education at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, he went from busking to playing in New Orleans's Bourbon Street bars six nights a week.
The song "Come Monday," from his fourth studio album "Living and Dying in 34 Time," reached No. 30 on the charts after its release in 1974. His first record, "Down To Earth," was published in 1970, and he has since released seven more at an annual clip. Finally, there was "Margaritaville."
He was continually touring and appeared on more than 50 CDs (both studio and live) with his Coral Reefer Band. He was nominated for two Grammys, won twice at the ACM Awards, and was honored by the CMA.
And it was in Austin, Texas, that Buffett got the idea for "Margaritaville." Before his trip back to Key West, he and a companion stopped at a Mexican restaurant for lunch and a round of margaritas.
"And I kind of came up with that idea that this is just like Margarita-ville," Buffett told the Republic. She laughed it off and checked me in for my flight. I got to work on it right away."
Part of it was composed on the plane; the rest was completed in the car while he cruised the Keys. He said, "There was an accident on the bridge." I finished the song on the Seven Mile Bridge, which seemed fitting, because we were delayed there for an hour.
In addition to being a successful businessman, Buffett has written several books, such as "Where Is Joe Merchant?" and "A Pirate Looks at Fifty," and has acted in and produced the film adaptation of Carl Hiaasen's novel "Hoot."
Buffett's family includes his wife, Jane, and their children, Savannah and Sarah, as well as their son, Cameron.