Jimmy Buffett, ‘Margaritaville’ singer-songwriter and way of life tycoon, dies at 76


Jimmy Buffett, the singer-songwriter who parlayed his ardour for Gulf Coast seaside life right into a billion-dollar Margaritaville empire, died Friday. He was 76.

Buffett’s loss of life was introduced on his official web site, which stated he “handed away peacefully on the night time of September 1st surrounded by his household, buddies, music and canine. He lived his life like a music until the final breath and will probably be missed past measure by so many.”

The announcement gave no trigger or location of his loss of life. In Might, he had revealed a short however sudden hospital keep that compelled him to postpone a live performance in South Carolina.

A storyteller who specialised in tales of seaside bums, burnouts, and small-time hustlers, Buffett chronicled coastal life with a lightweight contact and an affectionate humorousness. Creating a sun-bleached spin on country-rock that he’d wryly dub “Gulf and Western,” he first drifted into the mainstream with the easy-rolling “Come Monday” in 1974 nevertheless it was 1977’s “Margaritaville,” his lone Prime 10 hit, that supplied the muse for the remainder of his profession.

“Margaritaville” advanced into one thing greater than a music and even the a number of companies grouped beneath that umbrella time period. Capturing an amiable sense of aimlessness — whereas whiling away the hours, its narrator muses, “Don’t know the explanation I stayed right here all season / Nothin’ to indicate however this model new tattoo” — “Margaritaville” was a shorthand for an island daydream, a spot to depart behind the tensions of the city grind and take life at a slower, sweeter tempo; the itinerary in “Margaritaville” included “nibblin’ on sponge cake,” “watchin’ the solar bake” and “looking for my misplaced shaker of salt.”

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Followers who referred to as themselves “Parrot Heads” — the nickname deriving from the parrot hats they wore at Buffett live shows — flocked to this fantasy, sustaining the singer-songwriter’s recognition even when his report gross sales waned.

Parrot Heads have been the preliminary viewers for Buffett’s Margaritaville model however the firm grew from a T-shirt store and cafe right into a multidimensional hospitality firm, one which encompassed 150 eating places and bars, together with greater than 30 accommodations and resorts that employed 1,000 individuals in North America.

The Margaritaville emblem may be discovered on casinos, cruises, waterparks, leisure put on, pickleball paddles, meals, beer, furnishings, frozen drink machines, even on a Florida retirement neighborhood. All instructed, Forbes journal estimated Buffett’s whole value at $1 billion in April 2023.

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Jimmy Buffett on his sailboat in Key West, Fla., circa 1975.

(Michael Ochs Archives)

Buffett confirmed no guilt for turning counterculture right into a capitalist enterprise. Within the late Nineties, when Margaritaville began to develop as a enterprise, he stated, “I’m not about to apologize for being a great businessman. Too many individuals in music have ruined their lives as a result of they weren’t. I’m not an awesome singer, and I’m solely a so-so guitar participant … There’s by no means been any grand plan to this factor. I’m making it up as I’m going alongside … Simply attempting to work the system whereas sustaining my ‘60s anarchic soul.”

The songs Buffett wrote from his “‘60s anarchic soul” fashioned the core of his songbook he referred to as “the Massive 8,” the handful of tunes he performed at each live performance, together with “A Pirate Appears at Forty,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise‘’ and “Why Don’t We Get Drunk.” All of those songs have been written, recorded and launched within the Seventies, a static canon that illustrated how Buffett captured the roguish attraction of Key West earlier than an inflow of tourism that he partially created.

A few years later, he expanded this checklist of songs with “It’s 5 O’Clock Someplace,” a 2003 hit by nation singer Alan Jackson that featured Buffett on vocals. Jackson wasn’t the one nation singer of the 2000s summoning the seaside vibes of Buffett; all through that decade such stars as Kenny Chesney made music that bore an unmistakable debt to “Margaritaville.”

Zac Brown, who dueted with Buffett on his band’s 2011 hit “Knee Deep,” praised Buffett by saying, “I believe he’s among the best American songwriters which have ever lived,” phrases echoed by Toby Keith, who stated, “He’s pretty much as good because it will get.” Buffett’s admirers weren’t restricted to nation music. In a 2009 interview, Bob Dylan proclaimed Buffett as one among his “favourite songwriters,” whereas the legendary New Orleans R&B musician Allen Toussaint saluted him in a music referred to as “I’m Gonna Dangle With Jimmy Buffett.”

Born in Pascagoula, Miss., on Christmas Day 1946, James William Buffett had wanderlust in his blood. His grandfather James Delaney Buffett captained a steamship, and his father served within the Military Corps of Engineers earlier than elevating his household within the gulf city of Cellular, Ala.

Enamored of his grandfather’s tales of the ocean, Buffett spent his childhood buried in books; his love of the ocean and books remained lifelong. His love of music arrived later, when he realized tips on how to play guitar whereas attending Auburn College. He hoped the instrument would assist him meet women.

Buffett dropped out of Auburn, usually journeying to New Orleans to busk in its streets. Ultimately, he fashioned a band referred to as the Upstairs Alliance so he might play nightclubs. Regardless of his burgeoning musical profession, Buffett returned to highschool, learning journalism and historical past on the College of Southern Mississippi.

After graduating, he married his girlfriend, Margie Washichek, and headed to Nashville to jot down for the music business commerce publication Billboard, harboring hopes of breaking into the enterprise as a songwriter.

Buffett resigned from Billboard when he launched his debut album, “Right down to Earth,” on the Barnaby label in 1970. A wily, rambling report that demonstrated a transparent debt to such longhair redneck troubadours as Jerry Jeff Walker, “Right down to Earth” didn’t discover an viewers.

Quickly, it grew to become clear that Nashville wasn’t suiting Buffett. He recorded a second album with a string band that the label shelved — they stated it was misplaced, however discovered it after he grew to become a star — his marriage fell aside, and he was left adrift, taking part in people golf equipment throughout the South. In 1971, whereas in Miami for a pending gig, he referred to as Coconut Grove resident Walker, who invited Buffett to remain in his guesthouse whereas they tinkered on Walker’s wrecked 1947 Packard. Walker launched Buffett to the music neighborhood in Miami, then took him to Key West, the place he carried out an analogous service. Buffett stated discovering the Florida Keys “modified my life.”

Settling into Key West, he labored as second mate on a fishing constitution whereas taking part in barrooms at night time. Buffett soaked up tales from dope sellers, smugglers, hippies and hustlers who all acted as a collective muse for the singer-songwriter.

“A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean” unveiled this new persona in 1973 and a yr later, he polished it sufficient to land his first hit with “Come Monday,” a music he wrote for his second spouse, Jane Slagsvol; the pair remained married till his loss of life. Buffett started to tour repeatedly in 1974, first as a solo act, then forming his Coral Reefer Band in 1975.

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Jimmy Buffett performing in 1977.

(Michael Putland/Getty Pictures)

A day of ingesting margaritas in an Austin, Texas, bar impressed Buffett to jot down “Margaritaville,” the music that grew to become synonymous together with his laid-back way of life. A right away stumble on its launch in 1977, the music encapsulated his mellow charms, laced with a touch of melancholy.

Buffett remained at cruising altitude for a couple of years, amassing signature tunes comparable to “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Fins,” however by the center of the Eighties, he acknowledged that the tide was turning; his era was turning into the outdated guard. “I figured the age of the singer-songwriter, individuals like me and Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, I figured these days have been about over and I higher cope with it.”

Buffett selected to cope with it by specializing in enterprise. He noticed that his live shows have been suffering from pirated “Jimmy Buffet” shirts, so he began a merchandising enterprise. He struck up a sponsorship with Corona beer, serving to to boost the Mexican beverage’s share of the import beer market from 2% to 17%. Noticing what number of viewers members have been sporting head-to-toe tropical clothes and sporting inflatable parrots on their heads, Timothy B. Schmit, the Eagles bassist who spent his mid-Eighties as a part of the Coral Reefer Band, dubbed the gang “Parrot Heads,” and a fan military was born.

Buffett dug deeper into his tropical-tinged comfortable rock. He catered his information and excursions to their tastes, establishing the primary Margaritaville retailer in 1985, then increasing it into a restaurant two years later. Additionally in 1985, he launched the compilation “Songs You Know by Coronary heart,” which might finally be licensed platinum seven instances, making it his biggest-selling album.

Buffett revealed his first e-book, the quick story assortment “Tales From Margaritaville,” in 1989, opening up a facet profession as an writer. He wrote his first novel, “The place is Joe Service provider?” in 1992, revealed a memoir titled “A Pirate Appears at Fifty” in 1998, then proceeded to jot down youngsters’s books and novels over the a long time. He additionally spent a portion of the Nineties working with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Herman Wouk on a musical adaptation of Wouk’s 1965 novel “Don’t Cease the Carnival”; it opened to detrimental evaluations in Miami in 1997, closing after Buffett refused to concede the producers’ calls for that the manufacturing be revised with out Wouk.

The boxed set “Boats, Seashores, Bars & Ballads” was licensed platinum inside a yr of its 1992 launch, setting the stage for “Fruitcakes,” the 1994 album that revived his recording profession. From that time ahead, Buffett’s new albums — which have been at all times produced by Michael Utley, a keyboardist within the Coral Reefer Band since nearly its inception, and Mac McAnally, a guitarist who joined the outfit in 1994 — routinely appeared within the Billboard Prime 10. By the top of the last decade, he based his personal label, Mailboat Data.

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Though Buffett by no means retreated from the highlight, he skilled a surge in recognition within the early 2000s, because of a clutch of up to date nation singers embracing his tropical sound. Garth Brooks began the pattern together with his breezy “Two Piña Coladas’’ in 1998, then Chesney broke away from the hat pack with “How Perpetually Feels,” the music that helped set up his beachy persona. Buffett himself grew to become a part of the pattern when he dueted with Jackson on “It’s 5 O’Clock Someplace,” a closing-time anthem that was an ordinary for each singers. Buffett would expertise comparable success a couple of years later when he appeared on “Knee Deep,” a singalong that gave the Zac Brown Band a No. 1 nation hit in 2011.

Buffett maintained a gentle workload into the 2020s, balancing common excursions with the occasional new album, taking the time to seem in a movie or two — he wrote the music for and appeared within the 2006 household movie “Hoot” and performed a model of himself in Concord Korine’s 2019 “Seashore Bum” — and broadening his attain with new artistic and business ventures.

With movie producer Frank Marshall, Buffett developed the jukebox musical “Escape to Margaritaville,” which debuted on the La Jolla Playhouse in 2017 and made it to Broadway in 2018. Margaritaville efficiently branched out into beer and casinos, then teamed with Minto Communities to develop the Latitude Margaritaville retirement village in Daytona Seashore, Fla. Buffett himself appeared bemused on the prospect of Margaritaville turning into an precise city, telling the New Yorker in 2022, “Who knew individuals needed to reside in Margaritaville? I assumed for some time it was a fantasy.”

“Margaritaville” entered the Nationwide Recording Registry in 2023. When requested by Rolling Stone in 2019 how he’d prefer to be remembered, he replied, “‘He had fun and made lots of people completely satisfied’ could be good.”

Buffett is survived by his spouse, Jane; their daughters Savannah Jane and Sarah Delaney; and their son, Cameron Marley.


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