By: Megan Hastings
American singer-songwriter, author, and businessman Jimmy Buffet passed away at age 76 on Sept. 1, surrounded by friends, family, and dogs. He was best known for his hit “Margaritaville,” which became so popular that Buffet launched several business ventures supporting his “island escapism” brand.
Buffet was born on Christmas Day, 1946, in Mississippi. As a child, he showed interest in sailing and trombone. It wasn’t until college that he picked up a guitar and began to play country music. His debut album, “Down To Earth,” was released in 1970; it only sold 300 copies. Seven years later, Buffet released the album, “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” which featured his breakthrough song, “Margaritaville.” Buffett’s music combined a range of genres such as folk and rock, which he described as, “drunken Caribbean rock n’ roll.” Over the course of his career, Buffett put out more than 30 albums and received nominations for two Grammy Awards for “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” a 2003 duet with Alan Jackson, and “Hey Good Lookin’,” a song he wrote with Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Clint Black, and Toby Keith in 2004. His duet with Jackson, along with his song, “Knee Deep,” which he co-wrote with the Zac Brown Band, both reached No. 1 in America.
Following the success of his music career, Buffet opened a t-shirt shop in Alabama. When that failed, he opened another business in Key West, expanding the t-shirt shop into what became Margaritaville. Today, there are over 30 Margaritaville restaurants worldwide, ranging from restaurants and resorts in Orlando to Jamaica. He also launched Margaritaville Records, which ended in 1996. Along with writing best-sellers and being a generous philanthropist, Buffett created the nonprofit Save the Manatee Club in 1981 with then-Florida Governor Bob Graham.
Buffet was fighting Merkel cell skin cancer at the time of his death. This specific type of cancer only affects 3,000 people in the U.S. every year. After his death, mourners paid tribute on social media, including country music icon Kenny Chesney, whose own sun-kissed style is heavily influenced by Buffett. On the website X, formerly known as Twitter, Paul McCartney expressed his admiration for Buffett as “one of the kindest and most generous people.”
Buffet’s website says, “He lived his life like a song til the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.”
(Sources: CNN, The New York Times)