Jimmy Buffett Dead At 76
Jimmy Buffett, best known for his laid-back Key West pop anthems like “Margaritaville” and cultivating an empire of dedicated “Parrot Heads,” has died. The news was confirmed on his official website, which read: “Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs. He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.” The cause of death was lymphoma, TMZ reports. Buffett was 76.
Buffett was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi in 1946 and raised in Alabama. In the early stages of his career, Buffett moved to Nashville to pursue a career in country music. He signed to Barnaby Records and released one album, 1970’s Down To Earth, which featured the single “The Christian?” Buffett recorded another album for Barnaby, High Cumberland Jubilee, which the label “lost” and conveniently found again once Buffett became a household name.
Buffett later moved to Key West, Florida, and developed his beachy, soft-tropical pop/rock persona. Signing to ABC-Dunhill Records, Buffett released White Sport Coat And A Pink Crustacean in 1973 — the album featured a cheeky song called “Why Don’t We Get Drunk.” The next year, Buffett released Living And Dying In 3/4 Time, which featured the single “Come Monday.”
It wouldn’t be until 1977 that Buffett hit the Top Ten with “Margaritaville,” which appeared on Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, which capitulated him to fame. His 1978 album Son Of A Son Of A Sailor featured another hit, “Cheeseburger In Paradise,” which peaked at #32.
In the ’80s, Buffett became a touring sensation and released a slew of yearly albums (1981’s Coconut Telegraph, 1982’s Somewhere Over China, 1983’s One Particular Harbour, 1984’s Riddles In The Sand, 1985’s Last Mango In Paris, and 1986’s Floridays, among others).
In 1985, Buffett opened a “Margaritaville” store in Key West, and in 1987, he opened the Margaritaville Cafe. In 1989, the first “Parrothead” club was founded in Atlanta. The term actually goes back to 1985 when Buffett, who was playing at the Timberwolf Amphitheater in Cincinnati, commented on how his dedicated fans tended to wear Hawaiian shirts and parrot hats. Timothy B. Schmit, who was then a member of the Coral Reefer Band, used the term “Parrot Head” to describe them — a play on the Grateful Dead’s “Dead Heads.” In 2011, there were 239 Parrothead chapters in the US alone. The annual “Meeting Of The Minds” event in Key West also attracts thousands of Parrotheads each year.
“When I found Key West and the Caribbean, I wasn’t really successful yet,” Buffett told the Washington Post in 1989. “But I found a lifestyle, and I knew that whatever I did would have to work around my lifestyle.”
Buffett also wrote three best-selling books in his career, including 1989’s Tales From Margaritaville, 1992’s Where Is Joe Merchant?, and his 1998 memoir A Pirate Looks At Fifty. Prior to his death, Buffett said that he had planned to write an in-depth autobiography when he was about 86, which would have been in 2032.
Buffett was heavily involved in all aspects of the entertainment industry — he famously wrote “I Don’t Know (Spicoli’s Theme)” for Fast Times At Ridgemont High, “Hello, Texas” for the 1980 John Travolta movie Urban Cowboy; and “If I Have To Eat Someone (It Might As Well Be You)” for the animated film FernGully: The Last Rainforest. Buffett also made cameo appearances in movies such as Repo Man, Hook, and Congo, plus TV shows like CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 reboot. In 2015, Buffett made a cameo in 2015’s Jurassic World, where he’s seen holding two margaritas while dinosaurs are set loose in the park.
Buffett was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006 and won two Country Music Association awards during his career. He was twice nominated for Grammy Awards: Best Country Collaboration With Vocals for 2004’s “Hey Good Lookin'” with Clint Black, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, and George Strait (featured on the License To Chill album) and Best Country Collaboration With Vocals for 2003’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” with Alan Jackson.