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02 September 2023

Jimmy Buffett, Renowned American Singer-songwriter, Dies At 76

Jimmy Buffett Dies Aged 76
Photo: ZUMA PRESS/Alamy Stock Photo
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Renowned American singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett has died aged 76.

The musician, who was best known for his hit Margaritaville, died in his sleep, a statement said. It said he had “lived his life like a song till the very last breath”.

The statement on his account on X, formerly known as Twitter, said: “Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of 1 September 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.”

Known as a progenitor of soft rock, Jimmy Buffett was born on Christmas Day 1946 in Pascagoula, Mississippi and raised in the port town of Mobile, Alabama. He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg, and went from busking on the streets of New Orleans to playing six nights a week at Bourbon Street clubs.

He released his first record, Down To Earth, in 1970 and went on to perform on more than 50 studio and live albums. Often accompanied by his Coral Reefer Band, Buffett was almost constantly on tour. He earned two Grammy award nominations, two Academy of Country Music awards and a Country Music Association award.

Margaritaville, his biggest hit, was released in 1977. The song is the unhurried portrait of a loafer on his front porch, watching tourists sunbathe while a pot of shrimp is beginning to boil. It became a seaside standard and inspired generations of fans – known as Parrotheads – to celebrate easy living.

“What seems like a simple ditty about getting blotto and mending a broken heart turns out to be a profound meditation on the often painful inertia of beach dwelling,” Spin magazine wrote in 2021. “The tourists come and go, one group indistinguishable from the other. Waves crest and break whether somebody is there to witness it or not. Everything that means anything has already happened and you’re not even sure when.”

The song, from the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, spent 22 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and peaked at No 8. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016 for its cultural and historical significance, became a karaoke standard and helped brand Key West, Florida as a distinct sound of music and a destination known the world over.

“There was no such place as Margaritaville,” Buffett told the Arizona Republic in 2021. “It was a made-up place in my mind, basically made up about my experiences in Key West and having to leave Key West and go on the road to work and then come back and spend time by the beach.”

In addition to his musical career, Jimmy Buffett was a successful entrepreneur, who went on to own an empire of themed resorts and restaurants while continuing to tour. In 1996, he was listed at No.13 in Forbes’ America’s Richest Celebrities list, with a net worth of $550m.

Paying tribute, country stars and friends the Oak Ridge Boys posted the message: “Rest Easy Jimmy…thanks for the fun.” The Wall Street Journal wrote: “Crooner sang about beach bums, hustlers and pirates while heading up numerous business ventures.” USA Today reflected: “With his crinkled smile, breezy tunes and barefoot stage presence, Jimmy Buffett encompassed the persona of a beach bum.”

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