Jimmy Buffett, the legendary singer-songwriter and businessman who created a lifestyle brand from his hit song “Margaritaville”, died on September 1, 2023, at 76.
He passed away peacefully at his home in Sag Harbor, New York, surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dogs.
The cause of his death was revealed to be a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma, which he had been battling for four years.
Health Issues Prior to Jimmy Buffett’s Death
Buffett did not publicly declare his cancer diagnosis before his death, although he had been struggling with health concerns for a year, canceling or rescheduling several events. After a recent checkup, he postponed a Coral Reefer Band engagement at Credit One Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina, in May 2021 owing to “issues that needed immediate attention”. He returned to the hospital for further therapy and hoped to recover shortly. He also delayed several of his December 2021 tour dates to 2022, citing a “brief hospitalization”. During treatment, he performed one farewell surprise gig in Rhode Island in July 2022.
Jimmy Buffett’s Musical Career
Buffett was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, on December 25, 1946, and raised in Mobile and Fairhope. He came to Nashville, Tennessee, to sing country and learnt guitar in college. His 1970 first album, Down to Earth, was followed by High Cumberland Jubilee. None of the public noticed either record. He acquired a dedicated following within a few years and burst into the mainstream with his sixth album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, which included “Margaritaville” in 1977. The successful song placed 234th on the Recording Industry Association of America’s “Songs of the Century” list. It inspired a restaurant, resort, gambling, clothes, booze, and other brand. Buffett was one of the wealthiest musicians, valued $1 billion.
Buffett was inspired by sailing and Caribbean culture in his songs. He sung of island escape, adventure, and romance in his “drunken Caribbean rock ‘n’ roll” genre. The Coral Reefer Band was founded in 1975, and he published over 30 recordings. Eight of his albums earned gold and nine platinum or multiplatinum. His other hits include “Come Monday”, “Fins”, “Volcano”, “A Pirate Looks at Forty”, “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, “Why Don’t We Get Drunk”, “Son of a Son of a Sailor”, “One Particular Harbour” and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”. He worked with Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Clint Black, and Toby Keith. Novels and memoirs were among his works.
Life and Accomplishments
Buffett was married twice in his life. His first marriage was with Margie Washichek from 1969 to 1972. His second marriage was with Jane Slagsvol from 1977 until his death. He had three children: Savannah Jane (born 1979), Sarah Delaney (born 1992), and Cameron Marley (adopted in 1994). He also had several grandchildren.
Buffett received many accolades and awards throughout his career. He was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for “Hey Good Lookin’” (2005) and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” (2004). He won two Academy of Country Music Awards for Vocal Event of the Year for “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” (2004) and “Hey Good Lookin’” (2005). He also won a Country Music Association Award for Vocal Event of the Year for “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” (2003). He received an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Miami in 2015. He was also inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006.
Buffett’s fans, mostly comprised of baby boomers, were known as “Parrotheads”. They followed him worldwide and attended his concerts wearing colorful costumes and accessories. They also celebrated his music and lifestyle through various events and charities. Buffett was known for his philanthropy and supported many causes, such as environmental conservation, disaster relief, education, and health. He founded the Singing for Change Foundation in 1995, which donated millions of dollars to various organizations. He also supported the Save the Manatee Club, the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Red Cross, and many others.
Jimmy Buffett was a beloved musician, author, and businessman who created a legacy that will live on for generations. He touched millions of people with his songs and stories of living and loving on tropical sandy beaches. He also made a positive impact on the world with his generosity and compassion. He was a poet of paradise and an American music icon who inspired many to find joy in life and in one another. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and fans.