Jimmy Buffett, the easygoing “Margaritaville” singer/songwriter who transformed his no-worries, beachy lifestyle into a five-decade endless road trip as a performer and entrepreneur, has died at age 76. The news, announced on his website and social media accounts, follows Buffett’s May cancelation of a show in South Carolina to get treatment for an undisclosed illness.
“Jimmy passed away on the night of September 1st surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs,” the early Saturday morning (Sept. 2) post reads. “He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many.”
In addition to his 13 Billboard Hot 100 charting singles — including seven top 40 hits and one top 10 — as well as 40 entries on the Billboard 200 album chart, Buffett’s no-worries mien belied a killer business instinct that parlayed the popularity of his island-spiked bar band folk rock anthems into an estimated billion-dollar personal fortune. His sprawling ancillary business org chart included a series of Margaritaville and LandShark Bar & Grill restaurants across the U.S., as well as licensing agreements for Margaritaville tequila, shoes, cruises, pre-packaged food items and an Atlantic City casino.
There were also his personal Margaritaville and Mailboard Records imprints, a trio of charitable organizations that funded personal growth through music and manatee rescue, as well as a pair of musicals (1997’s Don’t Stop the Carnival and 2017’s Escape to Margaritaville), his signature LandShark lager beer and three Latitude Margaritaville retirement communities in Daytona Beach, Hilton Head and Watersound, FL.
Born James William Buffett on Christmas Day 1946 in Pascagoula, MS, and raised in Mobile, Alabama, the singer was one of three children born to James Delaney Buffett Jr. and Mary Loraine (Peets), who both worked for the Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding company. He grew up listening to his grandfather steamship captain J.D. Buffett’s tales of high seas adventure, to whom he paid homage in “Son of a Son of a Sailor.” The latter features the memorable, salt-caked lines, “I’m just a son of a son, son of a son/ Son of a son of a sailor/ The sea’s in my veins, my tradition remains/ I’m just glad I don’t live in a trailer.”
According to the New York Times, he was one of only six writers — along with Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and William Styron — to top both the Times’ fiction and nonfiction best-seller lists. Buffett also dipped his toes into two children’s books written with his daughter, Savannah Jane, The Jolly Mon (1988) and Trouble Dolls (1991).
Over the years, Buffett also contributed original songs to a number of movies, including Summer Rental, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Urban Cowboy, Jurassic World and FernGully, as well as filming cameos for Repo Man, Hook, Congo and Rancho Deluxe.