Jimmy Buffett, ‘Margaritaville’ Singer-Songwriter and an American Original, Dies at 76

Jimmy Buffett, the iconic “Margaritaville” singer who turned the “island escapism” lifestyle into a business empire, died Friday at 76.


Jimmy Buffett, the iconic “Margaritaville” singer who turned the “island escapism” lifestyle into a business empire, died Friday at 76.

  • “Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dogs,” a statement posted on his website said. “He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.”
  • Buffett’s musical breakthrough came in 1977 with his album “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” and the hit single “Margaritaville,” which stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 22 weeks.
  • The lyrics of the Mississippi-born musician’s most famous tunes sang of tropical locations and sun-soaked destinations, all accompanied by a cocktail (or two or three). Some of his popular songs included “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere,” “Fins,” “Come Monday,” and “Son of a Son of a Sailor.”
  • As Variety put it, “Buffett’s boozy, punny, often marijuana-scented variety of tropical good-time music struck an abiding chord with an army of enthusiastic fans, who dubbed themselves ‘parrotheads’ in reference to the colorful avian headgear they sported at the musician’s sold-out concerts.”
  • His 1985 greatest hits album, “Songs You Know by Heart: Jimmy Buffett’s Greatest Hit(s),” was his most commercially successful, selling more than 5.6 million records. Seventeen Buffett records were RIAA-certified gold or platinum and he frequently toured with his Coral Reefer Band.
  • Buffett was more than a musician – he was a mogul. Jimmy Buffett’s business empire included restaurants, apparel, resorts, casinos, a beer brand, ice tea, liquor, a cruise line, food items, a Sirius XM radio station, a record label, and retirement communities. He also wrote several fiction books and made cameo appearances in TV shows and movies.
  • The first Margaritaville store opened in Key West in 1985, followed by the first Margaritaville Café two years later. By the time of his death, the Margaritaville global lifestyle brand was estimated to generate more than $1.5 billion in annual sales.
  • Buffett ranked at No. 18 on the Forbes’ list of Richest Celebrities of All Time with an estimated net worth of $1 billion.
  • Jimmy Buffett was born on Christmas Day, 1946 in Pascagoula, Mississippi. He was raised in Mobile, Alabama, and spent much of his life in the Florida Keys when not on tour. He is survived by his wife Jane, his daughters Savannah and Sarah, and his son Cameron.

reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • “Peopled with pirates, smugglers, beach bums and barflies, Mr. Buffett’s genial, self-deprecating songs conjured a world of sun, salt water and nonstop parties animated by the calypso country-rock of his limber Coral Reefer Band. His live shows abounded with singalong anthems and festive tropical iconography, making him a perennial draw on the summer concert circuit, where he built an ardent fan base akin to the Grateful Dead’s Deadheads.” (The New York Times)
  • “One of his first songs to draw attention was ‘Come Monday,’ from his 1974 album “Living & Dying in ¾ Time.’ Years later he told David Letterman, ‘This is a song that kept me from killing myself in a Howard Johnson’s in Marin County. It hit, I paid the rent, got my dog out of the pound. … and the rest is history.’ It notably included the line, ‘I got my hush puppies on, I guess I never was meant for glitter rock ‘n’ roll,’ staking his claim to going his own laid-back way.” (CNN)
  • “Fans, affectionately dubbed ‘Parrotheads,’ were also quick to pay tribute to the singer… [m]any cited ‘One Particular Harbor’ when remembering the singer: ‘But there’s one particular harbor/ So far yet so near/ Where I see the days as they fade away/ And finally disappear.’” (NBC News)



  • “Forbes counted Buffett among the world’s highest-earning musicians this year, with an estimated net worth of $1 billion, including $570 million from touring and recording, a music catalog valued around $50 million and $140 million in planes, homes, and shares in Berkshire Hathaway. He once wrote a song about buying Berkshire Hathaway stock, ‘when it was cheap,’ and was friends with the company’s chairman and CEO Warren Buffett.” (Wall Street Journal)
  • “Toby Keith shared photos of himself with the iconic singer over the years, writing, ‘The pirate has passed. RIP Jimmy Buffett. Tremendous influence on so many of us.’ Kenny Chesney posted a video of himself sitting on the beach playing Buffett’s song ‘A Pirate Looks at Forty,’ and recalled their friendship. ‘So goodbye Jimmy. Thanks for your friendship and the songs I will carry in my heart forever. Sail On Sailor,’ he wrote.” (Fox News)
  • Beloved ‘Margaritaville’ singer Jimmy Buffett died of cancer, according to a new report. After the musician was diagnosed with skin cancer four years ago, the disease progressed to lymphoma. This was the 76-year-old’s cause of death, according to TMZ. ‘He lived his life in the sun, literally and figuratively,’ a source told the outlet Friday, noting that Buffett had been on hospice since Monday. (New York Post)

Author’s Take

Thanks to my dad, I grew up listening to Jimmy Buffett on cassette tapes. “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Margaritaville,” and “Volcano” were all part of the soundtrack of my childhood. I was lucky enough to see Jimmy Buffett live in concert in 2016, but our group of college kids was vastly outnumbered by legions of loyal Parrotheads. Although never beloved by music critics, Jimmy Buffett used his voice, guitar, and brain to build a billion-dollar business empire. He was truly an American original. RIP.

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© Dominic Moore, 2023