The pirate flags are at half-mast in Margaritaville as Parrot Heads mourn the loss of their captain. Jimmy Buffett has passed away at the age of 76. According to a social media post, the prolific singer-songwriter and lifestyle tycoon died peacefully on the night of September 1, 2023, and was “surrounded by his family, friends, music and dogs.” TMZ reported that Buffett’s death was the result of lymphoma caused by skin cancer. Let’s look back on the life of this American icon with another Throwback Threesome.
Playing His First Notes
James William Buffett came into this world on Christmas Day, 1946 in the Gulf Coast town of Pascagoula, Mississippi, where a bridge was named after him in 2015. Growing up in nearby Mobile, Alabama, young Jimmy was enthralled by his grandfather’s tales of the seafaring life. Those nautical themes would later find their way into much of Buffet’s work.
Buffett first picked up a guitar in college. After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with a journalism degree, he went to Nashville and was hired as a reporter for Billboard magazine. That job gave Jimmy access to the movers and shakers in the music business who would give him his start as a recording artist.
Following the disappointing reception of his debut album in 1970, Buffett made a pivotal trip to Florida where he met up with fellow troubadour Jerry Jeff Walker. According to Rolling Stone, the two friends decided to drive from Miami to Key West. It was there, while watching the sunset, that Jimmy realized he had found a new home and source of inspiration.
Jimmy Buffett Finds His Sea Legs
With the release of his album A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean in 1973, Jimmy Buffet began crafting an image and entire lifestyle around sun, sand, and saltwater. He became a sort of beach bum poet laureate with such odes to laid back living as “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” and his signature song, “Margaritaville.” The latter would also become an umbrella for Buffett’s lifestyle brand that began with restaurants and eventually included a clothing line, resorts, casinos, cruises, and retirement communities. Jimmy Buffett also wrote bestselling books and even ventured onto Broadway.
In addition to his wife, Jane Slagsvol, and three children, Jimmy Buffett left behind a worldwide community of fans. The term “Parrot Heads” was first uttered by Eagles bassist Timothy B. Schmit while he was a member of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band. It was an accurate way to describe the tropical-tinged Deadhead-like loyalty of the audiences at Jimmy’s sold-out concerts.
If there’s a silver lining to be found in the sad news of Jimmy Buffett’s passing, maybe it’s that he has finally been reunited with his “lost shaker of salt, salt, salt!”