Jimmy Buffett, Music’s Easygoing Icon and Founder of Margaritaville, Dead at 76

Jimmy Buffett, music’s easy-going icon, has died at the age of 76.

“Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs,” according to a statement released on social media. “He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.”

TMZ reports that Buffett had been ill and recently began receiving hospice care. Earlier this year, he postponed several upcoming live performances to “address some issues that needed immediate attention.”

As the founder of Margaritaville, “Bubba” catered to his own unique musical ecosystem, combining a natural country twang and western-folk influences with flavors from his tropical Gulf Coast upbringing. At live performances, he routinely graced his multiple generations of devoted fans, affectionately known as Parrotheads, with “The Big 8” set of signature songs including “Margaritaville,” “Come Monday,” “Fins,” “Volcano,” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” His tireless tour schedule, along with his many diverse business investments and sponsorships, contributed to Buffett becoming one of the wealthiest musicians in the world with an estimated net worth of $1 billion in 2023.

James William Buffett was born on December 25th, 1946 in Pascagoula, Mississippi. He spent much of his childhood in Mobile, Alabama, where he first picked up his lifelong passion for sailing, while Buffett’s inclinations toward music didn’t begin to develop in earnest until he left to attend Auburn University. After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in history, Buffett sharpened his musical chops in the Nashville music scene and released his country-leaning debut album Down to Earth in 1970.

In 1971, Buffett relocated to Key West, Florida where the tropical setting — and his night shifts working on a fishing boat — helped the Gulf Coast native reconnect with his roots and find his voice while refining his unique “gulf and western” sound that mixed elements of rock, folk, pop, country, and calypso. His 1973 sophomore album A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean proved his growing comfort and self-confidence, particularly on the novelty song “Why Don’t We Get Drunk,” the eldest record of his “Big 8” concert staples.

Buffett released two LPs in 1974 with Living and Dying in 3/4 Time, which marked his first entry on the Billboard 200 chart and hosted his first Hot 100 hit “Come Monday,” as well as A1A with its “Big 8” lead single “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”

In the late ’70s, Buffett found his biggest success with 1977’s Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, featuring his ubiquitous hit “Margaritaville,” and 1978’s Son of a Son of a Sailor, which included thefan favorite “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”

From there, he became a wildly successful touring act, with his devoted Parrotheads dressing in Hawaiian shirts and seeing him multiple times each.

Buffett rekindled his mainstream crossover appeal on the charts in the early aughts when he joined Alan Jackson for the 2003 single “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” which reached No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, his highest peak since “Margaritaville” hit No. 8 in 1977. He nearly surpassed that mark with his 2011 Zac Brown Band collaboration “Knee Deep,” which topped out No. 18.

In addition to his music, Buffett appeared in dozens of TV shows and films, mostly as himself. But he did show off some acting chops in fictional roles in movies such as Repo Man and Hook, and in a recurring role on the recent Hawaii Five-0 TV series.

And, of course, he created a business empire with his Margaritaville hospitality company, opening restaurant chains, retail shops, hotels, casinos, and resorts around the world. In recent years, the company even expanded into building retirement villages.

Revisit Jimmy Buffett performing “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” in the clips below.