The beloved singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett passed away at his home in Sag Harbor, Long Island on Friday September 1, 2023 surrounded by family and friends. Buffett, 76, had been fighting Merkel Cell Skin Cancer for four years. He continued to perform during treatment, playing his last show, a surprise appearance in Rhode Island, in early July.
With a recording career that spanned more than fifty years and included hits such as “Margaritaville,” “Come Monday,” and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” Buffett was one of the most successful performers in popular music. He filled arenas with fans who called themselves “Parrot Heads,” and popularized a signature blend of folk, country and Caribbean music with lyrics that often reflected Buffett’s world travels. A pilot and a sailor, Buffett wrote songs about his plane being shot at by Jamaican police (“Jamaica Mistaica”), getting lost in the Sahara Desert (“Buffet Hotel”) and smugglers he had known around the Florida Gulf Coast (“A Pirate Looks at 40”).
Although he was best known for upbeat party songs (others include “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and “Fins”) Buffett first achieved notoriety for thoughtful ballads that showed the influence of Texas songwriters such as Jerry Jeff Walker and Canadian Gordon Lightfoot.
Bob Dylan praised lesser-known Buffett compositions “He Went to Paris” and “Death of an Unpopular Poet” - songs that reflected the observational, storytelling skills Buffett developed in his early career as a journalist for Billboard magazine.
Buffett had a second career as a successful author. He was one of a handful of writers who had number one best-sellers on both the fiction and non-fiction lists of the New York Times Book Review.
He had a third career as an entrepreneur, building a diversified lifestyle brand business, including Margaritaville hotels, restaurants, and retirement communities, along with sidelines such as Land Shark beer. Buffett’s branding and business acumen made him one of the most financially successful musicians of all time.
James William Buffett was born on Christmas, 1946 in Pascagoula, Mississippi and grew up in Alabama. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1969. He credited early years playing and singing in the streets and bars of New Orleans with shaping his dedication to connecting with his audience and giving the customers a good show. Buffett had little patience with performers who took themselves too seriously. He liked to say that the job of singing for a living was descended from the profession of court jester.
Buffett is survived by his wife of 46 years, Jane (Slagsvol) Buffett, his daughters Savannah Jane (Joshua) and Sarah Delaney, his son Cameron Marley (Lara), his grandson Marley Ray and devoted pack of dogs Lola, Kingston, Pepper, Rosie, Ajax and Kody. Also survived by his Montana sister, Laurie Buffett McGuane (Tom), their children Heather Hume, Anne Buffett McGuane, Maggie McGuane and Thomas McGuane IV; his Alabama sister, Lucy Buffett and daughters Mara Delaney Buffett O’Dwyer and Melanie Leigh Buffett; and many more wonderful cousins, nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Jimmy Buffett’s Foundation Singing for Change, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute or MD Anderson Cancer Center.
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