Jimmy Buffett, Grammy-nominated 'Margaritaville' singer, dies at 76

Singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett performs with The Coral Reefer Band at The Omni Coliseum on September 4, 1976 in Atlanta, Georgia
Singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett performs with The Coral Reefer Band at The Omni Coliseum on September 4, 1976 in Atlanta, Georgia

Tom Hill/WireImage Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffett, the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter behind the hit "Margaritaville" and its related business empire, has died. He was 76.

His death was announced in a statement on his website. Though it did not specify a cause of death or where he died, Buffett had rescheduled a series of concerts this past spring, saying that he had been hospitalized, although he offered no details.

"Jimmy passed away peacefully on the night of Sept. 1 surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dogs," the statement read. "He lived his life till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many."

In May, Buffett had to postpone a concert in South Carolina. While he did not provide medical details, in a statement announcing the news at the time he said, "Two days ago, I was just back from a trip to the Bahamas, thawing out from the California 'winter tour' and chomping at the bit to get to Charleston. I had to stop in Boston for a checkup but wound up back in the hospital to address some issues that needed immediate attention."

Born Dec. 25, 1946, in Pascagoula, Miss., Buffett spent his formative years in the port town of Mobile, Ala. Before settling there, his father traveled to the likes of India and Africa with the Army Corps of Engineers, and Buffett's grandfather was a captain on a steamship. It was these adventures that would inspire his wanderlust.

"For young Jimmy, the Gulf of Mexico was the doorway to a world of adventure where the characters he heard about in his grandfather's stories were waiting to be discovered," his official website reads. "The siren call of exotic ports was in contrast to his days as a parochial school student and an altar boy, and it only took a guitar to take him off course from the life his parents had imagined for him."

During college, Buffett became inspired to learn the guitar and start his first band, and together they'd play six nights a week in New Orleans. After graduating, Buffett got a job as a journalist at Billboard magazine in Nashville while also working as a singer and put out his first album, Down to Earth, in 1970.

His music would eventually embrace the beach-friendly style adored by his fans today, partly the result of a trip he took to Key West, Fla., with fellow musician Jerry Jeff Walker in 1971. His first Top 40 hit was 1974's "Come Monday," off his fourth album, Living and Dying in ¾ Time. That year, he also started touring regularly, which he would continue to do until his death.

Buffett achieved international fame in 1977 with his breakthrough hit, "Margaritaville," a vacation anthem from his platinum-selling album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes that has become a classic. The song peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard charts and would be his only single to reach the Top 10.

He went on to transform the track into an entire business empire. He opened several stores, including Margaritaville Cafe in Key West in 1987, and he owned the LandShark Bar & Grill in Baltimore and the national Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant chain, named after his 1978 song "Cheeseburger in Paradise." Buffett also had a hotel chain and licensed Margaritaville tequila, T-shirt and footwear lines, and various food items, all of which made him a millionaire.

As well known as it became, "Margaritaville" was not what brought Buffett his Grammy nominations. In 2003, he partnered with country singer Alan Jackson on the single "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," which hit No. 1 on the country charts and won the 2003 Country Music Association Award for Vocal Event of the Year. Buffett also earned his first Grammy nod for it in 2004, for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals. He would be nominated again the following year for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals for his song "Hey Good Lookin'," which featured Jackson and George Strait.

He released a total of 29 studio albums, also writing music for movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Urban Cowboy. He also made numerous film and TV appearances, usually as himself, including in Jurassic World and on the Hawaii Five-O revival of the 2010s. He was also an accomplished author, one of only six writers, including Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, to top both The New York Times' fiction and nonfiction best-seller lists. His 1989 book, Tales From Margaritaville, was the first of his three No. 1 best sellers.

A jukebox musical based on his songs, Escape to Margaritaville, opened on Broadway in 2018, telling the story of a bartender and singer who falls in love with a career-minded tourist. When asked in an interview with EW that year what he hoped audiences would take away from their experience seeing the show, Buffett had a simple reply: "A smile on their face."

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